Let’s start with true confessions. I’ve been in marriage counseling since summer. This is my fifth round of marriage counseling in seventeen years. And don’t worry, I’m not going to whine at you. I only mention it because sometimes people get the impression that everyone else has it all together, and they are the only ones with problems. Trust me, I have problems. My cross-cultural marriage topping the list.
When I reached my very lowest, a woman from church approached me and offered me free counseling. If it had been anyone else I probably would have said, “Forget it. It’s too late. I give up.” But this woman, Juliette, is someone I greatly respect. She and her husband run a Christian inner healing ministry called “Breakthrough to Joy.” More than that, she is currently finishing up her Masters degree in counseling, although she’s probably well into her fifties. This says to me that she takes her calling seriously. And since I certainly needed some joy in my life, I agreed to meet with her.
Immediately I saw a difference between this style of counseling and my previous four rounds and began to feel a glimmer of hope. She spent our first few hours together helping me to focus on God and get back to a point of joy. Yes, she uses other inner healing and secular counseling techniques, but that attention to joy was something truly special.
“Joy is a relational experience that is the basis for spiritual experience, human bonding, healthy identity growth and good health generally. Joy is the feeling many experience as ‘falling in love’ with their baby, their grandchild, their first love, a puppy and a face that just lights up to see us. Joy is our normal state as biological beings.” http://lifemodel.org/
We were made for joy. Did you know that? I was made for joy, and you were made for joy. The original design for mankind was to dwell in God’s presence. Think back to the Garden of Eden when Adam walked with God. What is God’s kingdom like? The Bible says righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Jesus himself said: "I have spoken all these things to you for one reason, that my joy may be in you and that your own joy may be abundant."
Here is a quote from a reformed minister named Lewis Smedes: "The first thing I want to tell you is that you and I were made for joy. Joy is our birthright. We were created for it. And when we lost it, Jesus came to bring it back again. From start to finish, Jesus is all about joy."
And a great quote from an online ministry that seems to have some sort of Hebrew bent. The author offers hundreds of scriptures on joy. "It has been said that the essential element of the universe is Joy. Based upon the Biblical record contained herein, and certain glimpses into the Heart of YHWH I've been blessed to receive, I confess there is much evidence to support this notion." http://www.yhwh.com/Thoughts/thought_11.htm
This idea that you were made for joy seems to transcend denominational barriers. Our brains were wired for joy from the creation of mankind. Therefore, we are always seeking joy. Always seeking to return to the essential ecstasy of God’s presence.
Unfortunately, few people actually understand how to do this. So where do we search for our joy instead? In a variety of sinful behaviors, be they external obvious sins or quiet inner sins. Think about it, why do people take drugs, overeat, have illicit sex, gossip, gamble, etc… Usually because it brings them some fleeting sense of pleasure. And these are the easy sins to deal with, because everyone can see them.
Sadly, sin tends to separate us from God, the very source of true joy. Yet, is it the sin itself that pulls us away from God, or our reaction to the sin? Once we are born again, our spirit is clean before God, the price has been paid. I think the primary reason sin separates us from God is the way we react to it. Maybe we hide out of guilt or inferiority. Maybe we feel afraid of God. Maybe we just like our sin and harden our hearts to God’s voice.
Suddenly those external sins don’t seem so problematic. It is the sins in our hearts that truly separate us from God. Another great minister, Paul Yonggi Cho, once said that the four great sins are fear, guilt, anger, and inferiority. These are the deep sins that can truly separate us from God. When faced with sin, rather than run from God, what we need to do is press into his presence and seek his counsel to help us overcome these sins through his strength. We need to replace these four great sins with the faith, hope, love, and identity that can only be found in Christ.
So here comes the hard part of the lesson. In order to breakthrough to the joy we were created for, we need to dig out these deep rooted sins from our hearts, going all the way to the source—lies the enemy planted during vulnerable times in our lives. And this is neither fun nor joyful in the process. In fact, it’s downright painful. Yet for true change, for true breakthrough, it has to happen.
I’ll be back to talk about digging out the roots. In the mean time, mediate on this simple statement:
You were made for joy!
What does joy mean to you? How do you find joy? What is holding you back from joy?