Recently I’ve had an abundance of circumstances that had the high potential to rob me of my joy. We all face these kinds of circumstances, but when they come in droves it’s almost too much to bear. For years when this kind of thing happened I would claim the promises of God to regain my joy. Now that’s a good thing to do, I highly recommend it. But I now do something different. I intentionally and consciously obey the command of God to be joyful. It’s true! God does command us to be joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
When God gives a command he wants us to obey it. But this command is hard to obey when you’re sad or mad or worried or anxious or a thousand other emotions. So how do you obey the command to be joyful. You intentionally and consciously tell yourself and God that you’re obeying his command. Doing that may not immediately cause you to go from sad to glad or from anxious to peaceful. You must continue to tell yourself and God until the clouds part and sun shines through. This is not the power of positive thinking or some mental trick; it is a choice to obey God. Every act of obedience is an act of choice.
Every command God gives us is for our good. We can especially see this in the command of joy. We all want to be joyful, but life happens and many things come into our hearts that can steal our joy. When that happens we rarely think about obeying the command to be joyful. Like every other command we have to choose to obey it in real time. This intentional and conscious effort to choose joy may seem odd at first, but how else can you move from a negative emotion you hate and God does not want in your life to joy? The truth is that the more you practice it the easier it will become. The extended amount of joy you will have in your life will be an amazing blessing.
If these negative emotions keep coming up, it just may be that there is a deeper issue that needs resolving. Recurring anger, depression or anxiety can be symptomatic of other problems. But we still need to choose to obey the command to be joyful. We may also need to go deep into the word and prayer and even pastoral counsel to resolve the other issues. We all have our struggles and God can help us with them. We are broken. Spiritual growth is the process of becoming whole.
As you consistently choose to obey the command of God to be joyful you’ll find that the presence of God will be nearer and sweeter to you (Psalm 16:11). You’ll also find that you’re thinking less about yourself and more about others and their needs and how you might meet them (John 15:7-11; Philippians 2:1-4). You want to be joyful. God wants you to be joyful. All that’s left is obedience. God will help you. He loves you.