In a recent Bible Study on Paul’s letter to Philippians, we had a discussion on what it means to experience joy in Christ. At the time this letter was written, Paul had been imprisoned in Rome and he faced charges that would have put him on death row. Yet he was joyful about his experience because even in prison, he was able to share the good news of Jesus and help others experience the joy of God’s forgiveness and love. He was joyful because he knew that if he was released from prison he could continue the work of sharing the good news but if he was executed then he would go to be with Jesus.
It’s challenging to view even what is bad as an opportunity for good. And yet we are surrounded by God’s goodness whether we recognize it or not. This is the joy that Paul was talking about. No matter what situation we read about or find ourselves in the midst of, there is still something to be joyful about. We have the choice of seeing the good or the bad, and the choice is up to us. We have the choice of dwelling on doom and fear, or hope and joy. It reminds me of this story:
Three people were visiting and viewing the Grand Canyon—an artist, a pastor, and a cowboy. As they stood on the edge of that massive abyss, each one responded with a cry of exclamation. The artist said, “Ah, what a beautiful scene to paint.” The minister cried, “What a wonderful example of the handiwork of God!” The cowboy mused, “What a terrible place to lose a cow!”
Experiencing the joy of Christ can be as simple as noticing a tiny flower spring forth in a sidewalk crack or celebrating the birth of a newborn child. It may show up as a kind stranger during a difficult time or witnessing an act of love in an everyday circumstance, but the joy of Christ is there, right in front of you—waiting to be noticed. What will you choose? Will you choose joy and hope? Or will you choose doom and fear?
You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal…By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for he people to use, to bring fort food from the earth…