Last night, I was in the toddler nursery at church. During that hour, I enjoyed playing with three adorable toddlers–something I don’t often have the opportunity to do anymore.
At one point, two of them started fighting over a toy. The little girl’s brown eyes widened with indignation as the little boy headed towards her toy. She was quite talkative, and so she let him (and me) know that this was her toy and she didn’t want him playing with it. He was a little younger, but his big eyes said it all. He was determined to have that toy, as well. My daughter (working in there with me) told them to share and then we watched what would happen. There were a few moments of tension in that room, before she finally walked away and found a different toy.
Later on, the little boy was carrying around two horses and the little girl wanted one. When I asked him to share one of them, he looked down at them and then promptly put out his hand, offering the small red horse to the girl. She gratefully accepted and his face lit up with a smile, as he handed his other horse to my daughter, as if to say, “I like sharing!”
Why am I sharing with you these nursery stories? Because these stories don’t only happen in the nursery and they are related to joy.
Don’t we often stamp our feet and argue and debate and manipulate to get our own way? To keep our own “toy”? And, how do we feel afterwards–even if we were right? Joy and peace are not two words that come to mind. But, if we can be like the little boy, and release what we are holding on to so tightly, while it seems totally contradictory, joy and peace often come.
My point is this: joy is never found in self-seeking. We think we know what we want, but when we get it, most of us aren’t satisfied and want something more. We can create a path of destruction trying to get money and power. We can knock down others as we seek to fulfill ourselves. And yet, when we get to the top, will we experience peace and joy?
I think just a little bit of human observation answers that question in a hurry. True joy is never a result of getting our own way.
The funny thing is, we continually think it is, so many of us try so hard to get that car…or that friend…or that bracket of income. We think we will be satisfied if we just can have a big house, a leaner body, or that brand of clothing. And none of it brings any joy. Oh, it might make us happy for a little while but then we will start feeling empty again.
But joy isn’t related to our circumstances. John MacArthur gives this theology of joy (saying it better than I ever could!): True spiritual joy is not related to circumstances. It is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel of Christ being produced in them by the Holy Spirit because they receive and obey the Word of God mixed with trials and keep their focus on eternal glory.
I love that! Because it so clearly shows that joy does not lie in getting our own way! It isn’t until we yield our will to God’s that we can experience true joy. What a challenge for us in a culture obsessed with personal fulfillment and purpose. How ironic that we need to give up our own definition of personal fulfillment to actually experience being fulfilled in a better way that we could have ever imagined. Isn’t God so amazing?
Don’t forget to check out my 10 day devotional on Joy. You can get it free! See the details here.