Sometimes it's our own attitude that keeps us from joy. That place, that feeling, of glad satisfaction.
For that, we must be willing to have a commitment to joy. To accept personal responsibility.
Or it could be sin in our lives that blocks our joy. For that, we must consecrate ourselves and stop sinning!
It might be our own selfishness or difficult people that get in the way of our joy. The keys to remove those blocks are consideration of others and a conduct of humility.
But what about when we go through hard times, real difficulties, painful trials? The times when our worst fears are realized and our heart is shattered? Is joy really possible then?
When those times come (and they will - Jesus said very clearly - In the world you will have tribulation - John 16:33), we have a choice how we respond. We can fall apart. Or freak out. Or try to change our circumstances.
Or we can keep our faith in Jesus and find peace and joy and trust.
How can we do that?
The key to joy when circumstances threaten to decimate us is not to change those circumstances but rather it is confidence. Confidence that God is at work and it is good.
Let's look at a couple of places in Philippians where Paul shares this truth with us and then see how it keeps us in the place of joy....
Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:12,13 - Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.
When our circumstances are hard, we need confidence. Confidence in the goodness and power of God. Confidence that He is at work, not only for His glory, but also for my good. Confidence that He has not cast us aside but that He will finish what He started. Confidence that He has a good purpose for my circumstances, that they are not "happenstance" or random. Confidence that momentary light affliction (relatively speaking!) is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Let me close with an illustration, a familiar one. One that God Himself has provided for us in nature. One that beautifully demonstrates this Truth.
An oyster. Suitable for good eating (at least to some people - I do not happen to belong to that camp!). Perfectly fulfilling its purpose to serve as a food source.
But sometimes, randomly, a piece of sand or other debris works its way into that oyster. An uncomfortable, undesirable piece of something that doesn't belong. Disrupting its languid tranquility.
The oyster has two choices. It can try hard to dispel that piece of sand that does not belong. To spit it out, get rid of it, and get back to a place of comfort.
If it does that, it will still be an oyster. It can still serve its purpose as a food source. And all will be well.
But if it doesn't spit it out, if that oyster allows that "thing that doesn't belong" to remain, that thing it didn't ask for in the first place, well, we know what happens.
By God's infinite and gracious design, unprompted by the oyster itself, a mineral substance (nacare) begins to covering that uninvited visitor. As long as the irritant remains within the oyster, this substance is secreted around it. Over time, layer upon layer of nacre coat the grain of sand until a lustrous peal is formed.
Gemstones must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty, but pearls need no such treatment to reveal their loveliness. Pearls are beautiful - iridescent and unique - because of how they are formed.
Sisters, we are the oyster. From time to time, a foreign object inserts itself into our lives and our peaceful existence is disrupted. If we somehow manage to remove that irritant - to change our circumstances - we will still be an oyster. We can still serve a purpose.
But, if we allow that unwelcome intrusion to remain, if we accept that God Himself permitted it into our lives and if we cling to the confidence that He is at work with it, to bring glory to Himself and good to our lives, then He will achieve a higher purpose. The Holy Spirit will ease the discomfort, coat the object with insulating grace to remove the pain it inflicts on us. And, as He does that, a work of beauty will begin to be formed in us. A work of grace, so that our lives bring glory to our Father.
And we will find ourselves in that place of glad satisfaction. JOY in the midst of un-joyful circumstances. Circumstances that turn out for greater progress of the Gospel.
God grant us the grace to see our circumstances as His building blocks for pearls.
oyster and pearl