I was recently asked “Why do I not have joy at work?” The question was driven by having to work with a difficult coworker. I think that most people have faced the challenge of working with others that make the workplace difficult. The collateral damage is that these difficulties often tempt the follower of Jesus to act in an unchristian way. So, how do I find joy in the midst of life’s difficulties?
Let begin by talking about the difference between joy and happiness. These two terms can be used interchangeably. I would like to suggest we make a distinction between the two terms for the sake of our discussion. I am suggesting that we define happiness as our response to circumstances and joy as our response to, or from, a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now you may choose to use different terms but what I am trying to point out is that often our happiness and unhappiness is a result of circumstances. For instance, if someone receives a promotion at work they are happy. If on the other hand they get fired then they are unhappy. The mood swings are based upon the circumstances in a person’s life.
Now there is nothing wrong with happiness. But it is not the joy spoken of in the Bible. The person facing the frustrating work environment was wrestling with why they did not have joy at work because the Bible teaches that “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,” (Galatians 5:22a) The verse actually answers the question. Biblical joy is a byproduct of a person’s growing relationship with Jesus Christ. While happiness is based on circumstances, joy on the other hand is based on our relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ brother, James, provides this insight, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2) James reminds us that joy can be experienced even when circumstances in life go against us. How can this be true? James responds, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3–4) The point being that joy is a product of seeing and living life from a Godly perspective. And Jesus adds this insight, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24) Reminding us that trusting in God, by prayer and turning to Him for help, produces joy in our lives.
Listen, no one likes to face difficulties. Yet, God uses difficulties to teach us to depend on Him. Joy comes to the follower of Jesus when they are able see life from God’s perspective. I talked with this person about their perspective on this coworker, who does not know Christ. We discussed how they have to be in control. We discussed how they had to lie to achieve their own ends. We then transitioned to discussing the blessing of being a follower of Christ. We focused on how Jesus was allowing this relationship to help the follower to grow and for Jesus’ character to be seen by others. And when we begin to grasp that we can trust Jesus with our lives and embrace these situations, the byproduct is joy!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson