About twelve years ago our church had a ladies’ retreat. I’m on the ministry team and I helped with planning and led the worship as I normally do. Our speaker’s topic was joy. She told us God is a joyful God, that He has joy in us and desires for us to have His joy. We are told in Psalm 16:11 that in His presence is fullness of joy.
I listened to her speak and thought to myself, “I don’t have joy. I’ve never had it. In fact, I don’t think it’s even possible for me to have it. I’m too messed up, I have too much baggage and pain from my past.”
And for a moment I thought maybe I should talk to someone there. Perhaps I should share this with our speaker, or our women’s ministry leader. But then I dismissed that thought. How would it look for me, someone in leadership, to confess this? To admit that I’d never had joy in my Christian walk? It would look bad, I thought. And so I kept silent.
And over the next couple of years I became increasingly miserable. Anger and bitterness ruled my life.
I now realize my reaction at that retreat was pure pride. I didn’t want to seem lacking to those around me. I wanted to look spiritual and sure of myself. I wanted to be the one with the answers, not the questions!
But God hates pride. And He tells us it’s a snare, a trap, and it leads to captivity (Proverbs 8:13, 16:18 Jeremiah 13:15-17). And that’s exactly what happened in my life. I had to become truly desperate and afraid before I was willing to ask for help. Praise God, I finally did and that’s my testimony of the Lord bringing me from bitterness to joy.
We demonstrate pride when we are unwilling to ask for help or advice. We demonstrate pride when we are sure our way is the best or only way to do things. When we are easily offended, this is a symptom of pride. (After all, someone has dared to criticize perfect, flawless me?!) Placing our desires above another’s is also a trait of pride.
Being unteachable, unwilling to listen to others, wanting to preserve my reputation. This is what pride looks like.
And it’s still more prevalent in my life and thoughts than I’d care to admit.
But back to joy, how do we obtain it? Is it possible for someone like me to have it?
Jesus says in John 15:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.John 15:11
But more specifically, what is “this” that He has told us? From the rest of that chapter we can glean 4 things:
- Abide in Him
- Abide in His love
- Bear good fruit
- Love one another
Abiding in Jesus means not depending on ourselves. It means trusting in Him and His good plans for me. It’s the opposite of self-reliance.
Abiding in His love is believing it. We must know what God’s Word says and believe that it is true. For me. Today. And every day.
Bearing good fruit means obeying Jesus’ commands and putting off sin. It means listening, following and repenting when necessary. It requires a teachable spirit and a humble heart.
Loving one another is an unselfish, humble imitation of Jesus. When I’m loving others, I’m not putting myself first.
So you see that the formula for joy is the direct opposite of prideful thoughts and feelings. We will do well to watch out for pride cropping up in our attitudes or thoughts because it will stomp out our joy. Which is found only in Jesus’ presence.
And joy is what He desires for us, His beloved children.