How can I be joyful when I’m so frustrated?
Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your emotions and not sure how you could possibly feel any different?
As we saw in the last post, joy is deeper than emotions. Happiness may be an aspect of joy, but joy is much more. In fact, there’s a crucial aspect to joy that brings us closer to seeing its transcending power. Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, the Scripture writers remind us to be joyful. As you read their admonitions, consider the circumstances that they’re discussing:
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
When was the last time that we were excluded, reviled, or spurned because of Jesus––and we felt joyful about it? Even more, Jesus doesn’t simply say to be joyful, he says to leap for joy. He wasn’t just being expressive. He genuinely wanted his followers to be so overjoyed that they jumped in the air.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:2-3, 12).
This is the same kind of situation. James is writing specifically about times that are hard. These are the times when we feel overcome by emotion––sadness or frustration, or perhaps a combination of both. Yet, James tells his readers to be joyful when these trials come.
Both of these instances take aggravating situations––situations that would typically break us––and tell us to rejoice and be joyful.
Both Jesus and James explain: because we recognize that there is something better that all of this is working toward. We know that when we suffer, it’s for a purpose. We know that when we are excluded or mocked for Jesus, it is for a purpose. God is shaping us. He is producing steadfastness. And, those who are steadfast will receive the crown of life.
So, what exactly is joy?
Joy is a way of thinking that overcomes. When those negative emotions are overwhelming us because of the depth of our sufferings, joy reverses those feelings. How? Because it takes our minds off of the current pain and our desire for it to stop and instead reminds us that the pain is doing something. Joy is the acknowledgment that our sufferings are not for nothing.
Joy transcends. And it does so because it shifts our perspective.
— Jason Hensley, PhD