This article is by Dr. Gregory Jantz and published by AACC
What I’ve come to understand is that for you to rejoice over some of the challenges you face in life, you need to maintain a banked fire of joy. That fire is up to the task of warming your heart at all times and perfectly capable of exploding in fireworks at others.
In order to keep the fire going, you need to offer up all the experiences of your life for joy to consume — the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the understood and the inexplicable. Just as Pollyanna’s father taught her to play the “glad game,” God calls us to play the “joy game,” which is really no game at all. Rather, it is a way of intentionally responding to circumstances, regardless of the circumstances.
Now, before you go beating yourself up because this seems like a very tall order, indeed, remember that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This is not innate human nature here; rather, it is divine intervention and provision. God Himself is able to empower you with joy as a gift. And in this world, you’re going to need it.
Joy, like hope, is most often evident in situations that are far from joyful. When you are joyful over understandable, recognizable, commonplace things and situations, it’s still joy, but the challenge of the command is having joy when times are hard. The understandable joy is the spark. Inexplicable joy is the coal. Happiness is found in both.
Whenever my hometown baseball team, the Mariners, win, I am filled with joy. It’s not the same flavor of joy, though, that I feel when my young son, Gregg, looks up at me and tells me a deep spiritual truth he’s learned and just then able to articulate. To see on his face that moment of comprehension and faith is absolutely precious and fills my heart with inexpressible joy. Both can be called joy, but they are different. While I certainly want to experience the Mariner-type of joy in my life, my soul needs to experience the Gregg-type of joy for me to be truly happy.
This type of joy is hard won. It, like hope, is a mature response to life. This kind of joy, also, often comes through experiencing hardship. Romans 5:3 says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” The rest of that passage goes on to say that perseverance produces character; and character, hope. This is also expressed in James 1:2–3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
When you learn to rejoice in whatever your circumstances, you strengthen your ability to hope and to persevere. Some days I wish that I could be strengthened just through ease and enjoyment instead of having to go through hardship and suffering. Of course, I realize that my growth as a person most often comes through overcoming adversity. I have no doubt that many of you are nodding your heads in agreement, even as a small sigh escapes your lips. You, like me, learn the hard way.