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Joy. What the heck is it?

Good news inspires happiness. This is a simple, undeniable reality, but as many know, good news is often short-lived, making happiness a circumstantial and conditional truth. Happiness can only go as far as the favorable stimulus that inspires it. Have you ever found an old gift card to your favorite restaurant only to realize that it has expired? Have you ever gone to Disney World only to come home and realize all you’ve received is a sunburnt scalp, sore feet, and a thinner wallet? The truth is: even the most magical place on earth can only provide circumstantial happiness.
Good news must be renewed in order for happiness to survive. Can I remind you of something? The good news of Jesus really is good news. You can invest everything you have in this truth because of how fundamentally true it is. Furthermore, the good news of Christ is constantly renewing itself. It is a living good news that has an eternal existence. You see, I am worried that Christians are living as if their renewed souls are decaying and decomposing just as they subconsciously believe Jesus’ body did in the grave. The problem with this is that Jesus did not decompose in a grave. He is alive indefinitely. The good news of Christ is constantly being renewed. With this, happiness transcends itself and becomes something permanent, joy. Happiness is knowing that Jesus died to save me; Joy is knowing that He rose and is constantly succeeding.
Throughout the Old Testament, a recurring theme regarding joy presents itself. Authors of the Old Testament write of joy as something that will come in the morning. The psalmist writes  “Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” (Psalms 126:4-6). Similarly in Psalm 30 it is written, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).
When Jesus arrives, a pivotal shift occurs in how joy is presented. This shift can be seen in John 16. As Jesus is about to hand himself over to those who intend to kill them, He shares that the long-awaited joy spoken about in the scriptures is now knocking at the door. Enter John:

“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:25-28)

Joy is at hand! Jesus goes on to further explain the nature of this joy in saying, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). From this point on, joy is no longer something that will come in the morning, rather it is something that has come and will persist through mourning.
Before I was reborn in Jesus, I could only wait for joy. In fact, my absence of joy pointed to my need for a savior. Now that I am a new creation, however, the presence of joy within me points to my need for Jesus. Joy does not exist without constant renewal: Therefore, the presence of joy points to my dependency upon its source, Jesus. Conversely, if I, in my current state of rebirth, refuse to acknowledge the joy given to me, then I denounce the good news of Christ. Keep in mind, this does not mean we are called to wear fake smiles even when we want to cry or scream, but it does mean we are called to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the possibility that joy is accessible through the constant renewal of the good news in our lives today.

In joy,
Bryson Barefoot

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