We all want it. Everything you do in life stems from a desire to experience joy, pleasure, satisfaction or relief.
We're driven by the conviction, based on appetites living naturally inside the human heart, that certain actions will lead to happiness. We seek this satisfaction in all kinds of places. We'll do anything for it.
The surprising reality is that joy is a God-given gift. And ultimately what we're seeking is found in the gospel. This driving hunger is what fuels us to continually seek Christ—to persevere in the ongoing ethics of sanctification.
It's True: We're Hardwired for Joy
Regardless of how you've come to think about happiness and pleasure, God wired that desire in you. It's true that some twisted pursuits are broken and sinful, but the desire for pleasure is God-given. You were designed to be ultimately satisfied and happily dependent on your Creator. The Bible is clear: our greatest joy is in Jesus.
Life with Him is better than anything else. Knowing Him and being reconciled to the Father through Him is the one way we find the most pleasurable, long-lasting and irreplaceable joy known to humanity.
Nothing in this world will ultimately satisfy. No amount of grain and wine (ancient symbols for wealth) will ever make you happy, and sometimes people need to come to this conclusion for themselves before they truly embrace it.
Pursuing the Joy of God
As we were cautioned with the crooked path of surface religion, pursuing the pride of godly achievements isn't the same as pursuing the joy of God Himself.
If all our churchgoing, choir singing and brownie baking don't serve their first and highest purpose by putting us more in love with Jesus, then, all that stuff isn't worth anything.
If the greatest tragedy of Eden was the loss of intimate fellowship with the Maker of our souls, the greatest joy of life in His kingdom is recovering this intimacy we lost.
And why should we expect anything else to rival this pleasure? Why would any other suitor seem a worthy competitor?
The Christian Life and Spiritual Deserts
The Christian life inevitably has ups and downs, highs and lows.
While in these spiritual deserts, you feel lonely, exhausted and distant from God. He may even seem unaware of and inattentive to your needs. But you're not the first to experience this phenomenon; this isn't new territory.
Many of our heroes in the Bible went through their own deserts. But like them, God, as an act of love, will lead you through those dry seasons to bring you to your knees, onto your face and back to the only thing that can quench your thirst and bring you joy—Himself.
Growing in Dependence Upon God
Growing in spiritual maturity includes growing in dependence upon God. You learn to distinguish between a desert that God's leading you through—destroying idols and instilling a deep thirst for Living Water—versus willfully wandering back down crooked paths into selfishness and isolation, away from His righteousness, truth and joy.
At our core, we're hedonists.
When we walk into sin, we believe the promise it offers. We must understand that these false pursuits will never deliver on their promises. At their roots, they're lies that can't support their own arguments. Identifying the lie of sin and counterattacking with a greater joy found in Christ is a healthy battle plan.
Stop Playing Defense, Take a Stand
Too often, Christians struggle with uprooting sin and combating its lies because we're not wielding the Sword well. It isn't sufficient to memorize verses telling you not to do something. We have to stop playing defense and start taking an offensive stand.
Another way we stumble off course is also related to focus and settling. We drift away from the joy of Christ because we're drawn toward other—lesser—things.
Our default posture as human beings is to want more. But in our selfishness, this often warps into an acute sensitivity to what we don't have rather than an awareness of what's at our disposal.
Even as Christ-followers, we compare what God has given to others with what He's given to us. As with our futile efforts to tip scales with religious morality, we keep score, but this time it's not about what we've done, it's about what we have.
Let's be straight, this is a dark place to live. How twisted are we to dwell on the things we don't have instead of enjoying the things we do have?
The Secret to Finding True Joy
We've already seen that we're in need of God's continual generosity and daily grace. He's been abundantly good to us so it's time to change the way we think. No more craving more of what we don't have. It's time to drink deeply, immersing ourselves in the gloriously satisfying gifts of the Father.
So how do we immerse ourselves in true joy? Become an expert in God's goodness.
We've been given the Holy Spirit to awaken our dead hearts. That's a joy.
We've been justified and delighted in as adopted children of a Heavenly Father. Joy.
We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ. Joy.
We've been given His Holy Word, revealing the infinite riches of the mystery found in the gospel. Joy.
We've been given unlimited personal access to the King of the universe through prayer. Joy.
We've been set free from the bondage of slavery—from the pursuit of a better self, affirmation from others, fleeting pleasures in the world, and performance-based moral religion. Joy.
All of us have a sense of dissatisfaction. And we typically look for solutions in four areas: self, others, the world and religion. But none of these will satisfy. Recovering Redemption is a 12-session Bible study about recovering what is lost and broken—our relationship with Jesus—because the gospel is the remedy to fix all things: every struggle, every circumstance, every relationship, everything.