This post by kathylarkman was originally published at GRACE PLACE
Years ago while Neal and I attended Bible College in California, one of our worship leaders wrote a song called “Joy for the Battle.” It became the ‘theme song’ for our class throughout the two year course, and just before we graduated we even made a CD with this as the title song!
The song’s very simple chorus lodged itself deep in our hearts, and still bubbles up whenever the journey gets tough, when life’s battles seem overwhelming:
“He gives me joy for the battle, joy for the journey,
Joy for the battle, joy for the journey…..”
The Bible is packed with references about the power of joy. The text we’re considering in Hebrews 12: 1-3 talks about the joy that was set before Jesus enabling him to run his race, to endure even the horror of the cross! And it urges us to ‘consider Him’ to imitate Him, to follow His example as we run our race.
In the book of Psalms one of the most repeated phrases is “Shout for joy!” Nehemiah told the Israelites that the joy of the Lord was their strength! In Philippians 4:4 the apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It’s a command.
Finding joy has been a challenge for me. I’m not naturally an upbeat person; I’m more of a melancholy, so when I talk about joy, I’m not doing so from the perspective of someone who never has a bad day!
My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible – even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic! I found this definition from Kay Warren very helpful:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
There’s nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because happiness is fleeting and temporary.
In reality, life is much more like train tracks than hills and valleys. Every day, wonderful, good things happen that bring us pleasure, contentment and beauty. At the exact same time, painful things happen that disappoint, hurt, and fill us with sorrow. These tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of our lives.
That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there’s still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.