I wrote a book about biblical joy, entitled Everyday Prayers for Joy. I’ve also battled depression. Am I a hypocrite? Well, I’m sure there have been times when I have not “practiced what I preach,” but I do believe that depression and biblical joy can coexist.
There are seasons when I find myself feeling exhausted and I battle depression. Yes. I have so much to be grateful for. I practice thanking God for the things I have to be grateful for on a regular basis. I trust God’s Word, spend time in it every day, and cling tightly to the truths I read. I battle depression, yet I have biblical joy because I am clinging to what I know about God and His promises. I am choosing to do the next thing. I persevere because He enables me to move forward even when life is hard.
The book God allowed me to write about biblical joy was the fruit of Him helping me process and work through some of my hardest days, and I believe He is creating something new in me when I fight for joy in my depression and in difficult, confusing seasons.
Something that struck me when I was studying what the Bible says about joy was that even God’s provisions and blessings are temporary. Those good things that He gives us, the things we need, and even the things we don’t need, He provides in the moment and blesses us with good gifts. I am so grateful! But life is constantly changing. Friends move, children grow up, spouses pass away, clothing wears out, food is perishable, and we outgrow our home. Nothing lasts forever. The only stable thing in this life is God-the provider of all things.
The enemy of our soul has a full-time job to try to get our focus off of the One in whom biblical joy is found. Biblical joy is found when we focus on our Provider, and that needs to be a daily choice we make no matter what season we find ourselves in.
What Does it Mean to Choose Biblical Joy?
A few years ago, the word “Joy” became my word after God had ushered my family and me into a season of some very difficult circumstances. It happened one night when I couldn’t sleep. I quietly tiptoed out to our living room, sat on the couch, and wrapped myself in a warm blanket. The only light in the room came from 3 letters that sat on a shelf: “J-O-Y.” As I sat there, I reflected on what a difficult season we had found ourselves in: the loss of a ministry that we had been in for 25 + years, the loss of both of my husband’s parents, who were our biggest support system and cheerleaders, parenting two adult children, and the entrance into the new and mysterious world of anxiety and depression. Little did I know that it was only the beginning and that we had been thrust into a very long season of unknowns.
That night I knew that God wanted me to learn His definition of joy. Not merely an intellectual knowledge of the definition. No. that’s not what He wanted for me. He wanted it to be my heart and soul, down deep experience. He wanted me to experience joy.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
I came to the end of every single resource that I had been clinging to and was forced to sit alone before the Lord. He opened my eyes to the fact that often I find joy in the blessings that He has provided for me more than I find joy in HIM – the Provider of the blessings. I needed to begin the process of learning what it meant to find joy in Christ alone.
Biblical joy is not something that comes and goes; it is not dictated by our circumstances. Biblical joy is something that exists even when we are suffering or going through a heavy trial, because it is based on the knowledge that God is present, walking with us in our trials, producing good fruit in us as we go through the trial, and will use it as a platform for him to be seen by others. (Excerpt taken from “Everyday Prayers for Joy” by Gina L. Smith)
What Happens When You Choose Biblical Joy?
- You are choosing to trust God with the things that burden or break your heart.
- You are choosing to set your mind on things above and not on things on this earth. (Colossians 3:2)
- You are choosing to focus on the eternal and not on the temporal. (2 Corinthians 418)
- You are choosing to place your hope in Him and not in the things and people around you. (Psalm 146)
- You are choosing to cling to the promise found in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
- You are choosing to fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen…”
- You are choosing to set your hearts and minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1–4)
What You Can Do
When you are reading the Bible, take time to underline the “unseen” things that you can focus on that will give you a bigger perspective and enable you to find biblical joy despite your circumstances. This is where you will you’re your strength! This is where you will discover JOY!
“The (biblical) joy of the Lord is my strength…” (and yours!) Nehemiah 8:10
Life is good — but life is hard. We are in a battle with the enemy of our soul! Learning and clinging to God’s promises is the key to finding biblical joy in all circumstances and is vital in our fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let’s not allow the enemy to win!
(This article was originally published at CROSSWALK.COM)