If you’re a Christian, you know that Christianity is supposed to be about joy. You probably also know that you’re supposed to experience joy in spite of circumstances. The Bible clearly teaches that joy is available that should make us happy no matter the circumstances. There’s a joy that the deepest trouble can’t put out and, if properly nourished and nurtured, can even overwhelm the greatest grief.
When Jesus prays to the Father in John 17:13, he prays for us – his followers. He says, I pray that ‘they may have the full measure of my joy within them.’ One chapter before, he says to his disciples, ‘You will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy’ (16:22). That’s pretty amazing! He’s talking to the twelve disciples, men who are going to be persecuted. They’re going to be robbed of everything they own, tortured, and put to death. Yet Jesus promises to give them a joy that will withstand all that. Nothing – not disease or persecution or alienation or loneliness or torture or even death – will be able to take it away.
I often wrestle with that concept. I have to ask myself, ‘Why do things affect me so much? Why is my joy not relentless?’ Sometimes I wonder, ‘Do we have that kind of impervious joy?’ I’m afraid not. I don’t think we understand the nature of this joy.
Romans 8 is all about living in a suffering world marked by brokenness. Paul talks about trouble and persecution and nakedness and poverty and how Christians are supposed to live in a world like that. In 8:28-30 he offers three principles for finding joy in suffering. Paul tells us that if we follow Christ, our bad things turn out for our good, our good things cannot be lost, and our best things are yet to come. Those are the reasons for our joy.