"Christian Joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as He causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world."
John Piper, author of Desiring God
My father was an exceptional man - loving, honest, generous, and hard working. But, he was not a man of faith for most of my life. When his two-week old baby daughter died suddenly, he decided that he wanted no part of God.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with cancer, and his prognosis was not good. Well meaning co-workers began stopping by his office to pray for him. He was embarrassed and felt obligated to accept their invitation to church. Against his better judgement, he attended a Pentecostal worship service where an entire congregation laid hands on him. The result was an encounter with God that was life altering. He recommitted to Christ and came home filled with the Holy Spirit. He began studying Scripture, attending church, and praying. Over the next two years, he faced a terminal illness with grace and dignity. Towards the end, he had an inner peace and a glow that can only be described as ethereal. We were shocked to see how many people came forward at his memorial service with stories of my father witnessing to them and how they were inspired by his faith.
As Christians, we have a reason to find joy in all things, regardless of our circumstance. We have a God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to walk in human form and teach us how to live. He suffered for our redemption and promises us eternal life. All He asks for is our faith, our devotion, our prayers, our praise, and our obedience. He wants to be in relationship with each of us and our response should be to take joy in the life that we've been given. It is not about enduring the present because the future is brighter. Instead, we are to celebrate each day and look for God's presence in the world around us.
It is easy to be a spiritual giant when all is working according to our plans. It is more challenging to be joyful when life goes in an unexpected direction. We live in a broken world that can be overwhelming. If we are not careful, we can fall into a state of anxiety and despair. But this is not what God wants for us and it is not how we should respond to His indescribable Love. Joy is a conscious choice that we get to make each day.
In 2013, I reached a crossroad in my life. I was spinning out of control and could not fix myself. In desperation, I fell to my knees and cried out to God for help. This prayer came from the depths of my soul in a moment where I fully understood that I was nothing without God. He responded, and I experienced a miracle. When I am tempted to get caught up in the chaos around me, I remind myself that everything I am today is the result of an answered prayer. At such moments, I shift my focus to gratitude and praise. I trust that a God who has shown me so much grace in the past is not going to abandon me now. Do I do this perfectly all the time? Absolutely not!
We are all works in progress and all fall short. We have hope because God assures us that all things are possible with His help. Sometimes, the best we can do is to pray for stronger faith and the willingness to find joy in our present situation. Our ability to be joyful in the face of adversity is a powerful witness to others. I think that God wants us all to be more like my father - a broken person who found strength and hope in Christ. And who, despite his own challenges, was willing to share his joy with anyone who would listen.
Cindy Kyser Buck