May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.
Romans 15:13 AMP
Living in the joy of the Lord is radically different from living a ‘good’ life. There is nothing miraculous in human goodness. I just watched a few episodes of a reality show on the lives of ex-Amish people in the Midwest. It was tragic on so many levels, but I was particularly struck by one woman’s observation of the Amish themselves. She said that she saw a lot of hard work in that community but not a lot of joy. Considering that the Amish are the epitome of a good Christian community, that’s a shocking insight. Human goodness and the joy of Jesus Christ are incompatible.
No Joy under the Law
Human goodness is the product of living under the Law. It’s a series of ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not.’ It is scorning the death and resurrection of Jesus in favor of good works. It is Cain offering God the fruits of his labor in the insane belief that he knew better than God what was an acceptable sacrifice. Human goodness is often admired and respected, but it has no power to save, and it’s more likely to provoke jealousy and shame than a genuine hunger for God.
Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time for everything, so I’m certainly not proposing that a Christian be a beaming simpleton removed from honest emotions and responses. But the joy of Christ stands out in a way that controlled niceties can only attempt to mimic.
Joy is in Jesus
The joy of Jesus is not the product of blessing or good fortune. It is a facet of His very Being and Nature that exists independent of circumstance. The very inexplicable nature of His joy is what makes it so noticeable. The best that we can achieve humanly is a temporary happiness, and there’s nothing extraordinary about that.
There is no part of Christ’s nature that does NOT stand out in this world, but I’ve never before seen the very radical aspects of joy. When something wonderful happens to us, joy or happiness is a given. But what about the monotonous routine of daily living? Like working a 12-hour shift in a factory, doing the same thing every day for years. Or working in a soulless cubicle farm at a big corporation. Or making meals, cleaning the house and taking care of children day after day. To have joy in these circumstances is shocking, a radical departure from common humanity.
The joy of the Lord cannot be faked, because it is entirely divine in its nature. As such, it shines out like a beacon, signaling to all who encounter it that there is more than can be seen in this world. That this life is more than the sum of its parts. Like the God it comes from, joy is death to some and life to others, but it is always remarkable.
“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
Isaiah 55:12 NKJV