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Have You Lost Your Joy?

Carolyn Dale Newell

Carolyn Dale Newell

Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 07, 2023
Have You Lost Your Joy?

That was the spiritual endurance God wanted to grow in me. I have joy that my endurance has developed and lacks nothing.

I stared up my shaded driveway with the realization that I had to do something different. Something more than pushing my walker up and down the driveway. I had allowed pain to steal my joy, and I felt totally depleted of both joy and peace. As I continued walking laps on my driveway, I contemplated about how to get the joy back in my life. Birds sang as a gentle breeze cooled me from the June heat as I stepped into the sunlight. I breathed in this peaceful moment, but what about joy? Where had it gone, and how would I get it back?

Have you ever traversed a season so traumatic that joy fled, leaving nothing but an empty shell where cobwebs would have gathered if it had been an actual place? Perhaps, right now, pain has emptied you of all things joyful. It can be physical pain, as in my case, or it could be emotional. It could even be a spiritual pain. Whatever you face, you realize as I did that joy no longer exists in your life.

What Is Joy?

The world categorizes joy with happiness, but as Christians, we can have joy even in the worst of storms, even in times of pain.

What Bible verse comes to mind when you consider joy?

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 NLT)

I selected the New Living Translation because the wording shows us more clearly what I discovered. For the first time ever, I realized that the trial isn’t the thing we count as joy. Instead, it’s the opportunity of the trial that we should count as joyful. I must admit, my friend, I still had trouble counting my season of recovery from a major spine surgery as joyful, but hang in here with me for a minute.

Wouldn’t you like to ask James why we should consider turbulent times as joy? Well, we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to ask him. Let’s dig into this verse and discover what James wants us to understand:

Seasons of trials come to test our faith. The devil means it for evil, but God means it for good (Genesis 50:20). As we weather the storms of life, our endurance grows. That’s what we should desire. I didn’t consider walking and exercising several times daily as the endurance I needed. What’s so joyful about pushing a walker (and later using a cane)? 

In retrospect, I don’t think all the walking and exercising built the endurance that God wanted. Now I see that God wanted me to increase in spiritual endurance. 

How Does Endurance Grow?

During my recovery, my faith wavered. I had hoped God would have been more merciful with the pain. It shocked me to discover the multiple areas of my body that were numb after the surgery. It’s been three months and not much has improved, so disappointment has loomed over me like a dark storm cloud. 

I also developed restless leg syndrome, and the swelling in my stomach makes it difficult to wear certain pants. As I stayed awake at night with my legs running, my joy ran away.

Things could be much worse, but I focused on the circumstances and not Christ. When life began to look normal again, my storm clouds lifted. Hope returned, and I began praying and believing that God would heal all these complications in His own time.

That was the spiritual endurance God wanted to grow in me. I have joy that my endurance has developed and lacks nothing. That’s what James wants for us.

What Is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It isn’t based on our circumstances, but on what Jesus has done on the cross, and what He does in our lives today. Let’s examine closely what Jesus calls joy:

"Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

His joy came on Resurrection Day, on Sunday. He looked beyond the shame and agony of the cross on Friday and looked forward to conquering sin, death, and hell on our behalf on Sunday.

But there’s more! Jesus returned to His rightful place in heaven. My friend, Jesus’s joy centered on dying for us and saving us. His joy is our salvation, so we can spend eternity with Him. Isn’t that something, that our salvation brings Jesus such joy?

A Change in Perspective

Now I understand what biblical joy means. It’s not based on anything earthly, so nothing on earth can steal our joy. We need to return to the first part of that verse from Hebrews. We need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, not on pain or anything earthly. As I write that sentence, I realize it is easy to say that when I’m not in pain, but it’s the truth. That still doesn’t make it easy, and I know as soon as pain distracts me, it will be front and center once again, trying to steal my joy as before.

The Apostle Peter gives us more insight into changing our perspective. He writes:

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."  (1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV)

Peter tells us not to be surprised by trials. Do they catch you off guard, my friend? When life is going on like normal, I admit that a trial is an unwelcome surprise. In the times when one trial after another bombards me as they did Job, I have the “What’s going to go wrong next?” attitude. Job lost servants, livestock, and all his children within a short window of time. Yet, Job exhibited perseverance.

Next, Peter tells us we are participating in the sufferings of Christ. This is a reason for rejoicing. During my season of back pain, my mind often wondered about the back of my Savior. He received thirty-nine lashes with a cat of nine tails. This was made up of several leather strips with sharp pieces of metal or bone, ripping flesh off the body. 

I haven’t suffered to the point of death like Jesus did, but we do know that Jesus kept His joy. The joy set before Him throughout all His beatings and crucifixion. He focused on Sunday, not on the pain at hand.

When we see Christ in His full glory, we will be overjoyed. All our suffering will never compare to the glory revealed at that time (Rom. 8:18). 

For now, we try to keep our joy alive, not allowing pain, fear, or stress to steal it, and especially not the devil. Jesus has given us His joy (John 15:11) which is quite special. Let’s switch our perspective and our focus. Like Christ, our eyes are on the future. If His joy came from giving us salvation, our joy should surround our salvation too.

Friend, I leave us with the words of Christ found in John 15:11 (NIV) as He spoke to His disciples with His impending death upon Him:

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/torwai

Carolyn Dale Newell headshot with dogCarolyn Dale Newell is an author and certified speaker. She knows what it is to live with blindness, but she calls her disability a gift from God. Her passion is to equip women to break free from emotional strongholds through her book, Faith That Walks on Water: Conquering Emotional Bondage with the Armor of God. You can connect with Carolyn on her website and her women’s ministry group on Facebook