Are you a person who is filled with joy? And if so, is it a joy that lasts?
Do you know a joy that abides even through great difficulties and hardships?
Though we live in a land that declares the right of every citizen to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” it seems as though many people are pursuing happiness but find it to be elusive or fleeting. For example, a recent article in the New York Times reports that a new course at Yale University is the school’s most popular class ever, a course titled “Psychology and the Good Life” that teaches students how to live happier lives.
According to one of the students in the article, the reason for the unprecedented popularity of the course is that “a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb.” The course seeks to remedy the unhappy state by teaching students to develop habits like “showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections.”
Perhaps such lessons will help alleviate some of the stress and gloom in these students’ lives, but will it show them where to find joy that lasts?
One astounding example of those who experienced a deep and abiding joy that endured even through trials is the recipients of 1 Peter. In this letter, the Apostle Peter writes to Christians who have been scattered throughout the Roman Empire by persecution. They have lost their homes and previous social connections, and yet Peter describes them as those who “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
How is it that they are able to have such joy in such difficult circumstances?
Part of the answer is that they had learned the great lesson about lasting joy: joy that lasts cannot be rooted in the ever-changing circumstances of our lives in this world, but only in the unchanging God and the salvation that has come through His Son, Jesus Christ.
They had come to understand that Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection, had secured the forgiveness of their sin, reconciliation with God, and eternal life for all who trust in Him. They knew that though they lost homes in this world, their true home is in the presence of the Lord where they have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
And they knew that while they were in midst of trials, God Himself was with them by the Holy Spirit, guarding them by His mighty power “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5).
So they were able to rejoice, not in the trials, but in their ever-faithful Lord and their secure salvation in Him. This abiding joy is still available to all who enroll in the school of Christ, and learn these lessons taught by His Spirit in His Word.