The phrase “joy of the Lord” is almost a cliche in churches and among Christ-followers. But what does it really refer to, and is it possible to live with such overwhelming joy that nothing can dim our zeal for life? And what happens if there is also present a deep sadness or depression within us?
I’ve learned that joy is that sense you have when you know you are loved.
Sorry, happiness and joy aren’t the same thing. I’ve often thought of Finding Nemo when I weigh the difference between happiness and joy. If you’ve seen the film, there’s a part in the story when Nemo discovers the jet-stream. Happiness is on the surface and storms may come and disturb that happiness. But joy from the Lord cannot be disturbed because the power is so great. Joy is linked to relationship.
What about your cat or dog that shows seemingly unconditional love to you? It’s true that animals offer a way for us to de-stress from tension and anxiety and are immeasurably valuable to us. Perhaps in this way, we experience something that resembles joy from pets–but is this genuine joy as spoken of in the Scriptures?
The truest joy is something that does not change based on circumstances. Even if everything around you shifts and changes, even if your health is threatened or your bank account suddenly is emptied, knowing the One will not allow joy to be stolen from you.
Relationship with Him infuses us with strength–that is, an incredible endurance despite any trials. There are people in history who were forced to live in hellish places and circumstances who did not lose their joy. Corrie Ten Boom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Brother Andrew. Paul and Barnabus. They all faced hellish places and uncertainty. Yet their vibrant relationship with the One gave them supernatural strength to carry on and not give up hope.
Depression or sadness that also doesn’t change due to circumstance is the opposite of joy. Can it be possible to have both a deep joy and a deep sadness in one’s life? It is my belief they can exist in concert–but that by submerging ourselves into daily, minute-by-minute fellowship with the One, we can overcome the effects of any depression or sadness. In my next article, I’ll tackle how exactly we can overcome against the dragon of depression.
Joy from the Lord is our strength.
-Sean Elliot Russell