Where Can I Find Joy?
After traveling a long and winding road to Gisenyi, which is a small Rwandan town on the Congo border, my husband and I were stunned to see pastors and their wives singing and dancing with joy upon our arrival. It had only been a few years since the horrifying tribal genocide where almost every person had witnessed loved ones being brutally slaughtered by machete wielding crazed men, who in many cases, were their friends and neighbors. I wondered how they were able to have overflowing joy in the midst of their traumatic circumstances.
The word “joy” appears 145 times in the scripture in 40 of the 66 books of the Bible, so it’s obvious that this is something God desires for us to experience. Think about what the Apostle, Paul told the believers in Philippi about this.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
My initial response to this verse is, “Wait a minute!! Paul says to rejoice always and repeats the word “rejoice” for emphasis. Really Lord? I’m supposed to be filled with joy even when I don’t feel joyful?”
God has issued an invitation to His children to rejoice in every moment of life because every moment is a gift…but you know the saga. Our Beloved offers a gift, but the adversary relentlessly tries to steal it from us. Jesus promises us an abundant life filled with His joy, but the evil one tries to break our hearts and destroy our lives with grief. Where can we find joy?
Although a joyful person may experience happiness, true joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. I am able to find supernatural joy in worship, even when my circumstances are harsh. This is because worship is telling God who He is, not because He needs to know, but because I need to remind myself of His true character. When I enter into His presence and turn my eyes to the Holy One, He fills me with His joy. Satan cannot steal this kind of inner delight because it is eternal.
While it is easy for me to understand the many verses in Scripture where we are exhorted to rejoice in the Lord, I am overwhelmed by His passion for me. Zephaniah 3:17 says that God exults over His children with great pleasure and pure delight:
“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (NASB).
The Hebrew word exult means “to be glad, rejoice greatly, joy, make mirth, rejoice.” It carries the sense of extreme gladness and festive pleasure. The word rejoice comes from a primitive root that means “to spin round under the influence of any violent emotion.” This means that God’s heart dances around in circles in joyous celebration when He thinks about you. This divine jubilation then shifts to a peaceful, quiet love that is so deeply felt by Him that words are inadequate. Can you believe it? God is sometimes speechless when He considers His love for His children. It’s like He is saying, “I love you so much that I can’t find words to express it.”
God desires for us to experience mutual delight with Him. Think about what this might look like. Your heavenly Father sings over you as you worship Him and you sing back to Him. You dance together and experience great pleasure in His warm embrace. Then you go back and forth rejoicing in each other all over again.
God’s love is not to be viewed from afar, but to be experienced deeply in an up-close intimate relationship. He desires for all of His children to move from merely knowing that He loves them to experiencing it firsthand. He wants you to feel the joy of being loved—to receive it personally and powerfully in a way that will change your life forever.
Imagine with me for a moment that you’re learning to dance for the very first time. In preparation you buy a book from a bookstore on dancing and study it diligently. It shows all the steps you need to know in order to dance. You take the book home and do everything it says. You even cut out little foot patterns and put them on the floor to follow. Then you practice the steps until you think you’ve got them down. You’ve got the book, you know the rules and you’ve even laid out the pattern. But there’s one very important thing that’s missing. It’s the music. You can’t dance without the music.
God wants us to dance like a child twirling breathlessly for her Abba Daddy but most of us are so busy reading the book, learning all the rules and working so hard trying to be a “good girl” that we’ve forgotten to listen to the music. My prayer for you is that you’ll learn to take time to sit at the feet of your Heavenly Father and hear the music. And then you will be filled with His joy and enjoy the dance.