Some of us might think that it’s love that makes a difference, that love is our light and that Satan is out to steal love out of our hearts. For sure, love does make a difference, our love is part of the light we shine in this world, and the devil most definitely wants to steal it out of our hearts. After all, God’s love is the foundation of everything we know, believe, and act upon. It’s the primary transformative force in our lives, and it’s the main give-away between a Christian and a non-Christian.
However, the spark of life that many of us Christians lack is joy. Sure, remember that Satan is trying to take everything away from Christians: our peace, patience, strength, faith, and hope. Every prize we have in the Lord, Satan wants to strip us of. But also remember that Satan works smart; he has figured out that the joyless Christian is one of the most effective tools (alongside the hypocritical Christian, the judgmental Christian, and the out-of-balance Christian) he can use. Why? Because no one wants to serve a God who makes our hearts soft but keeps our lives sad, hopeless, and depressing. There’s no draw to the Christian life when we see a bunch of Christians walking around with loving hearts but long faces.
So this brings us to address the reality of why, if we call ourselves Christians, are so many of us without joy? What keeps us from having the joy that Jesus promised we would have? The first point of understanding is that we already have joy in our hearts once we’ve invited Jesus into our lives. It’s the same with everything else we have in him, like the fruit of the Spirit, faith, and authority. Instead of thinking that joy is something that we have to go find, we need to understand that joy is something we already possess. The issue is that many of us either a.) don’t know it, b.) aren’t expressing it, or c.) aren’t allowing God to effectively grow it in us.
Christians are human like everyone else; we go through the same ups and downs in life, and we encounter the same sorts of stuff. The main difference between Christians and non-Christians is that the Christians have an ally, someone one their side. Christians have God to comfort them, provide for them, rescue them, and vindicate them. Non-Christians just have themselves and “fate.”
Now, because Christians still go through hardships, many of us think that these hardships give us a reason to pull away from the Lord. We reserve our happiness for when times are better, so we think we’re waiting on God to bring about happier circumstances when, in fact, all we’re doing is depriving ourselves of the constant joy we’re supposed to have in fortunate times and in unfortunate times.
So the big number one reason why Christians might be joyless (besides not knowing that joy is already theirs in the Lord) is because they are basing their joy on their external circumstances. Their expression of joy is dependent on God making everything better first before they are willing to see the bright side of things. This approach to joy is backwards and it will never result in real joy; God wants to help us understand that his joy transcends our circumstances. What’s even better news is that his joy is often the very thing that changes our circumstances. Joy isn’t just an emotion; it’s an attitude, a way of looking at things. A joyful Christian, one who chooses a positive, faith-filled perspective rooted in the Word of God, can’t be dragged down by life. All this time, when we thought we were waiting on God, he was the one waiting on us.