Would I describe the life of most Christians as characterized by total joy? Probably not. Could I say my life is characterized by total joy? Sometimes maybe, but not all the time. In fact, I’d say Eldredge was on the money when he wrote, “joy isn’t exactly falling from the skies these days…It’s hard to come by. Joy seems more elusive than winning the lottery.” I spent some time mulling that over. Why is that? Why am I not more joyful? Why do Christians generally not evidence more joy? I came to the conclusion that there are a number of contributing factors to our loss of joy. There are undoubtedly more than I have identified. But I see a few, and I thought it might be a good idea to spotlight the ones I am aware of. I approached the matter by asking the question, “what can I do to assure that I don’t have much joy in my Christian life?”
Second, I can stop living by God’s grace. I have encountered several Christian leaders who, when addressing the question of how we experience joy in our lives, insist that we must pray, read the Bible and share our faith more. Make sure you have your “quiet time” consistently. Is your life lacking in joy? Well here’s a bunch of things you’re not doing or not doing right, so if you’ll just fix those things then you’ll be good. I am all for praying, reading our Bibles, telling others about Jesus and other “Christian disciplines.” But I also find that it is awfully easy for me to reduce my life with God to a “to do” list. When I think life comes from carrying out my duties I am guaranteed a loss of joy. Joy comes from the peace, relief and freedom of knowing that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by the grace brought to us by Jesus Christ.
Third, I can fix my heart on the things of the world. I can focus my attention on the idea that what will really make my joyful is if I can just have more money, or a better job, or closer friends, or a bigger house, or some particular achievement or…well, you name it. That idea makes sense to us because when we desire something deeply, pursue it, and finally obtain it we always experience a burst of pleasure. There is a temporary joy in those things. Key word, temporary. It wears off, usually quite quickly. So our lives begin to look like a long series of pursuits of one goal after another that promise more than they can deliver. As longs as we focus on the stuff of this world as the source of joy we can be guaranteed that we will always be disappointed.
Fourth, I can ignore what God says. I’ll just do things my way. After all, I know what’s best for me. Just ask Adam and Eve how that works out. There’s nothing quite like disobeying God to insure a total lack of joy in your life.