What is it about the movie “Hook” that has captivated kids (and their parents!) for nearly thirty years? Robin Williams, certainly. And pirates always help. And, of course, Tinkerbell was pretty neat. But that warm feeling the movie left us with…where did that come from?
Ah, yes. The plot. That great storyline in which a man rediscovers joy.
Peter Pan rediscovered joy, and audiences across the nation cheered and cried. He found his lost “happy thoughts” and, for the first time in a long time, he knew what it felt like to fly again. He learned how to laugh and love again and, in the process, he reclaimed his marriage and his family.
But it didn’t happen overnight. He had to work hard to relearn the art of joy.
When we are children, joy comes to us as a gift. But as we grow into the weight of adult problems and responsibilities, we can’t take joy for granted anymore. We have to be more intentional about the whole thing.
Furthermore, if we take the “easy” route of only looking for joy in the most pleasant of circumstances, we’re severely limiting how we understand and experience joy, since the Bible tells us that “joy” can be known even in the middle of dire circumstances. How dire? How about…
- When people hate, exclude, insult and reject us because we love Jesus (Luke 6:22-23)
- When we are facing trials (James 1:2)
- When we are grieving (Nehemiah 8:10)
Not to mention the pretty depressing circumstances described in Habakkuk 3:17-18: “Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
The amazing thing about the Word of God is that it not only shows us the kind of Kingdom-joy we are designed to experience, it also gives us clues how to go about it.
God doesn’t leave us without guidance.
It’s not a mystery.
In His Word, God describes some very specific things we can do to have more joy. Here are five of them:
1. To have a joyful heart … cherish His Principles.
How can you know this will work? Read Psalm 119:111. “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”
What action can you take today? Engage with his statutes. Read a chapter in your Bible. Memorize a passage of Scripture. Journal about what you read or memorize. Pray Scripture over someone you love.
2. To have complete joy … ask for and receive His Provision.
How can you know this will work? Read John 16:24. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
What can you do today? When was the last time you asked for something in God’s name? Ask for something in His name today.
3. To be filled with life and joy … spend time in His Presence.
How can you know this will work? Read Psalm 16:11. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
What can you do today? Do you feel the presence of the Lord on Sunday mornings during praise and worship? Why wait until Sunday? Spend time worshipping Him today and enter into His presence at home, work, or in your car.
4. To have joy … promote peace instead of evil.
How can you know this will work? Read Proverbs 12:20. “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”
What can you do today? Think of someone who is experiencing chaos in any area of his or her life: relationship drama, financial stress, unforgiveness, or even physical clutter in his or her environment. Ask the Lord what you can do to sow peace in the life of that person.
5. To rejoice … understand and appropriate the promise of heaven.
How do you know this will work? Read Luke 10:20. “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
What can you do today? Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Is your name written in the Book of Life? If so, ponder that precious gift and let joy well up in your heart. And if you’re not sure if your name is written in heaven, you can be. Thank Jesus for the sacrifice He made on the cross so you can have eternal fellowship with God. Ask Him to be your personal savior and to begin, this very moment, showing you how to embrace a brand new, transforming relationship with Him.
These aren’t philosophical ideas, or vague suggestions. These are actionable things you can do today, and each one will increase your joy if you let it.
Joy isn’t about happy feelings, fleeting circumstances, or fairy glitter. Take action. Do what the Word of God says to do. When we embrace the choices and behaviors the Bible links with joy, it gives wings to everything else in our lives.