Scripture reminds us that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b).
Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is usually when our circumstances are working out the way we planned or hoped. When pain, sorrow, difficulty, or hurt take place, Christians can be prone to conclude something similar to nonbelievers—God must be mad or we did something to deserve pain or punishment.
To address this important perspective, let’s look first at Jesus’ attitude toward His Heavenly Father as He was faced with the Father’s judgement on the cross because of our sin. It’s important to remember that Jesus sweat blood over being separated from God the Father (Luke 22:39-46). Out of love for us, He drank the cup of the Father.
As Jesus faced the Cross, He made an interesting statement to the Twelve in the Upper Room discourse.
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
This joy seems to sum up Jesus’ human experience—joy even in the midst of crucifixion. How could this be? This is clearly a characteristic that must be given to us by God Himself as we trust His sovereign plan and perfect love for us. Listen to these words from Jesus that focus on joy.
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)
“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13)
What brings us this type of joy in the midst of painful circumstances? We’ll answer this question next week.
John's travels for ministry behind the Iron Curtain led him to found East-West Ministries International in 1993. John and his wife, Susie, live in Dallas, Texas and have a grown daughter and two grandchildren.