Joy. The feeling of pleasure and delight. Often described as a feeling of great happiness.
I remember the moment I developed a greater understanding of the word joy in one of the most unexpected places. I was with my kids watching one of the most creative films Disney has ever produced, Inside Out.
For those of you that haven’t seen it or need a refresher, here you go…
The story follows Riley, an 11 year-old girl whose world is turned upside down when her parents uproot the family and move from the Midwest to San Francisco. Throughout the movie, the scenes move back and forth between Riley’s world and the world of emotions inside of her. These inside emotions live within her “headquarters” and are led by her core emotion, Joy. Joy is accompanied by the characters [emotions] Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness.
Up until this point, Riley had experienced all these emotions at different stages of her life, but Joy was the one running the control center. With Joy controlling the helm, Riley had created happy “core memories” that shaped her life. Joy’s desire was to protect them at all cost, which meant keeping sadness from touching them. But there came a point in the story when Riley was so overwhelmed with sadness from her uprooting that her Sadness had begun to touch core memories. This resulted in Riley’s life and personality taking a turn for the worse. From that moment on, all of Riley’s core memories started to crumble as a result of sadness.
The rest of the movie follows Joy on a journey to find the past core memories and restore them to their “joyful” place in Riley’s mind. However, what Joy would come to discover on this journey would change everything. Every joy-filled core memory of Riley would eventually be destroyed. The girl they once knew had changed and was overcome with deep sadness. It was at that moment when an unexpected shift occurred in the storyline. Joy realized that Riley had to experience and endure sadness in order to experience new sustaining joy. Sadness was actually the catalyst for new, joy-filled core memories.
Maybe you resonate with the character Joy. You try to suppress or avoid the sad and difficult parts of life. Maybe you do it because you’ve never been taught how to handle your sadness. Maybe you are fearful of what others may think of you, because you believe being sad or discouraged makes you look weak. Maybe you are in denial, because you believed somewhere along the way that following Jesus should mean you should always have joy–or else something is wrong with your faith.
I don’t know the reason, but God does. And he cares about it and you. I mean…there is an entire book of the Bible, aka Lamentations, that is a poetic expression of deep pain and sadness, but also an expression of deep hope.
I know for some of you, this could come as a disappointment because you expected to read a devotional of joy with words of encouragement that made you feel like you were walking through the middle of Whoville on Christmas Eve. But when I thought about writing this devotional, I kept thinking about that one person who is having a hard time finding joy in life right now. Everyone around you “looks joyful” but you just can’t seem to find the joy this season has promised to bring.
May I encourage you? Not in a shallow way. Because although I don’t know your circumstances, I believe Jesus understands your heart the best, so I want to encourage you with something he said to His first disciples [apprentices].
In John 16, Jesus is sharing with His disciples about how following Him in this world is guaranteed to bring hardship, hurt, and hostility. He then goes on to share that He is going to go away for a little while. Super comforting right? Guaranteed to bring them joy right? His followers are all beginning to ask each other questions, and knowing their confusion, listen to how Jesus responds.
Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you. (John 16:20-22)
Jesus promises that our sorrow will turn to joy. He promises that no one can take that joy away.
Jesus was born to bring us joy. Jesus lived a perfect life bearing the weight of our sin on the cross to bring us joy. Jesus rose on the third day, defeating death, because He wanted us to experience true joy. This joy cannot be shaken and can be found only in Him.
My hope and prayer is that you would know that there is nothing better in this world than knowing that we have a God who is in the business of answering prayers. He answers them according to His will because He desires us to have complete joy.
Listen to what John 16:24 says.
Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:24)
What sadness are you withholding from sharing with Him? What if God is just waiting for you to bring your sadness to him so that you can receive joy?
Would you stop and pause today for just 5 minutes and share with Him what’s on your heart? Share with Him your sorrow. Because as He promised, and as Riley experienced in the movie, there is true, complete joy waiting on the other side of your sadness. He is with you.
This blog post was written by Jay Stovall.