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When Life is Tough, You Can Still Have Joy!

Many people’s stories prove that when life is tough, you can still have joy—even when challenges or grief hit, during health challenges, when you’re isolated or at odds with your children or spouse, or just going about another dull day. The guest on my first Radiant Joy podcast shares stories of joy in good times and in hardship, clarifying what the joy of the Lord is.

Here’s how my first podcast came to be. Listening to and meditating on the Beatitudes in Matthew, I became eager to understand what Jesus meant. Having spent most of my life as a recovering people-pleaser and approval seeker, I’ve struggled with some situations Jesus calls blessed. So, my heart pondered this passage with the Holy Spirit, and my head examined different versions of the Bible. One attitude Jesus calls blessed seems especially important to understand in today’s increasingly secular culture with its anti-Christian bias.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he said in Matthew 5:10 (NIV). In The Message, it reads, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.” 

Next, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice [“be in joy”] and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Mt. 5:11 (NIV). Compare The Message, Mt. 5:11-12:, where Jesus says, as restated in the vernacular, “[C]ount yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out to speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” 

So are we supposed to be joyful about persecution, insults, and put-downs? OK, we’re exhorted to be Christ-like. I know that, and I know we’re supposed to praise and thank God no matter what happens, but is that supposed to make our joy complete? Jesus promises that if we keep his commands, we’ll remain in his love, his joy will be in us, and our joy will be complete. John 16:10-11 (NIV). He also talks about grief turning into joy. John 16:10 (NIV). And he says to ask for anything in his name, and we will receive, and our joy will be complete. John 16:24 (NIV).

Also, Paul tells us, “ to take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

As I usually do in my daily Quiet Time, I asked the Holy Spirit what he wanted me to take away from those Beatitudes verses. I simply got the message, “Leap for joy when mistreated because of your faith! It’s fine that all don’t speak well of you.” That certainly reinforced my ongoing letting go of human approval-seeking and strengthening my trust and surrender . . . and experiencing the joy of knowing God’s love and being so grateful for the Holy Spirit!

My next question was how to reconcile the Beatitudes with other teachings I’ve heard on joy. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the mission of the church I attended before moving to another city. Its motto, repeated every Sunday, was to “Radiate the Joy of the Gospel in the Heart of the City.” Then the Spirit led me to journal this: “Believers are called to radiate joy. Joy is the natural by-product of faith, hope, love, and trust. It comes from abiding in Christ, and it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can have that fruit even when the circumstances don’t seem to warrant it, for God has taken those circumstances into account in His Divine plan for you. He has given you every spiritual gift and blessing. So that is something to rejoice about, whatever the circumstances are. He’s won the victory against sin and death, so “Death, where is your sting?” “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven, for thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory!”

Knowledge, Understanding, and Counsel are Isaiah 11:2-3 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that’s where this came from, but I don’t expect you to accept that, and it’s good if you test me. The cool part was that the Spirit then led me to ask the pastor who came up with that motto to be the guest on my first podcast, and to ask him about this very topic. You may have already heard the podcast, which was released last Thursday; if so, I’m delighted! If not, and you’d like to learn more about how you can have joy even in the most difficult circumstances, I suggest that you watch or listen to Episode 1!  My next blog post will continue on this topic, with more of the wisdom Reverend Michael Hurley of San Francisco shared on the podcast titled “Our Joy is God’s Pleasure. Amen?” And here’s a big hint: he thinks of joy not as an optimistic viewpoint or a jovial personality, but as the effect of feeling love and doing something beyond our own power. He speaks of radiating joy as our hearts magnifying the Lord by touching other hearts and minds outside our own. 

Please follow me on Social Media and, if not already subscribed to my monthly email and my monthly podcast, please do! I’m only sending two emails a month (one update like this and one link to a podcast), and I don’t share your contact information! 

Did these inspire you? Read more of my blog HERE.

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