When I see the word “joy” I instantly begin to smile. Who doesn’t want to have joy in their life? But I realized many years ago that joy and happiness are two different things: Happiness is what happens around you as with your circumstances and joy is what happens deep inside your spirit and soul.
The best examples for our understanding of these two words come straight from the Bible, where some chose joy, even when their circumstances were pretty bad.
Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin to Esau, was running for his life. He ended up at his uncle Laban’s house and farm. He had no money and no prospect for a job until Laban offered him a job. When Laban asked Jacob what the wages would be, Jacob said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel” (Genesis 29:18). Laban agreed and then the Bible says, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20).
What a beautiful exhortation of love! For most, serving seven years without monthly payments would be an awful circumstance. But not for Jacob. He had that inner joy that propelled him to finish strong. However – Laban tricked Jacob and substituted Leah for her young sister on the wedding night. Jacob then had to work another seven years for Rachel. But he followed through on that promise and God honored him with great wealth and a large family.
Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, was the apple of his father’s eye. It was Joseph who received the Coat of Many Colors which represented Jacob’s desire for Joseph to be his heir, even though he was the youngest. It was Joseph who spent most of his days with his father while the other sons worked with the sheep. And it was Joseph these brothers hated and had great jealousy toward. They ended up plotting to kill him and ultimately sold him into slavery. But the Bible says that even though Joseph became a slave, was thrown into prison and lost thirteen years of his life, “The Lord was with Joseph so he became a successful man… the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer… and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper” (Genesis 39:2, 21-22).
Joseph would not have succeeded in these circumstances if he was angry and complaining. He kept his faith and joy in the Lord Who then honored and blessed him. He knew God had a plan for his life even when everything pointed the other way. After Pharaoh made him second in command over all of Egypt and his brothers were reunited with him, Joseph told them not to worry about his retaliation against him for God had allowed all this to happen for good: “Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive’” (Genesis 50:19-20). That’s joy.
Ruth, a Moabite and the daughter-in-law of the Jewish widow Naomi, was in a terrible circumstance for a woman in that day. Her husband had died as had Naomi’s which meant they were destitute without a man or family to take care of them. Naomi decided to go back to the land of Judah and told Ruth to go back to her family, where Ruth would be able to remarry and be taken care of. But Ruth had found joy in the God of Naomi! She chose to continue on with Naomi and her God rather than go back to the idols of her culture. Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God, my God” (Ruth 1: 16).
And so Naomi allowed Ruth to accompany her back to Judah where God in His great wisdom and love honored these women: Ruth with a husband and child and Naomi with a grandson who was the grandfather of King David!
Paul, a Pharisee who hated the Christians yet was touched by Jesus and transformed into one of the greatest champions for Christ, started many of the early churches and wrote many of the books of the New Testament. His circumstances throughout his ministry were some of the worse any man has ever had to endure, even prison. Yet it was from prison where he wrote the “Book of Joy,” Philippians.
“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… For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain… make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, untied in spirit, intent on one purpose… Do all things without grumbling or disputing… Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus… Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians)
Now that is the definition of joy: That deep awareness that whatever our circumstances may be, they are orchestrated by our God for our good. I pray that these examples of Bible Characters who chose joy will be an inspiration to you.
Please pray with me:
Our Lord God, please instill in me the attitude of joy no matter what my circumstances. Thank you for those who have gone before me and shown me in your Word that joy can be real! I ask in your son’s precious name, Amen.
Lane P. Jordan is a best-selling author, international motivational and inspirational speaker, singer, artist, Bible teacher, and professional life coach. She lives in Frisco, Texas with her husband who partners with her in ministry and waits impatiently for daughters and granddaughter to visit! Lane’s desire is to encourage, support, and motivate women of all ages to be better wives, mothers, and women of God by organizing their lives and time. You can find her at: www.LaneJordanMinistries.com and her blog at www.PathwaysToOrganization.com.
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Publication date: January 31, 2017