When Joy is Not Present

Part 3 in a series on finding joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

When we read the words of Paul to the Roman and Galatian believers, we see that it is our God’s desire and purpose that we experience joy. As children of our God we should be overflowing with unspeakable joy.  Sadly, many believers know little of the joy of the Lord as a regular part of their living. Many of these are stuck in a joyless pursuit of worldly fulfillment and happiness thinking that these are what we call joy.

What have so many who claim to follow Christ missed that has left them bereft of joy?  Several causes are common.

1. Sin and disobedience

The practice of sin can cause us to lose the joy that is intended to come to us in our salvation and union with our God  Although we made commitments to following Jesus, we still sin, turn aside to lesser things, and disobey Him. These choices interfere with our communion with our God and with our joy. We sense a barrier in our own minds that’s come up between us and the Lord.

While sin will not disrupt the fact of our union with our God, it can certainly disrupt the experience of that union.  The joy flows into us through the union, and sin will in the end disrupt our joy.  And of course, the enemy of our souls will pile on the guilt and shame to add further insult to the injury of our sin.

2.  Unbelief

Disbelieving at a practical level in the presence, power, and purpose of our union with our God.  This will include practical disbelief In His Lordship over us or His love for us.  Disbelief in the full righteousness of Christ being ours for all time. Disbelief in His ability to lead us far more effectively than we can lead ourselves.  Disbelief in the fact that our holiness is in truth His holiness lived in us by His Holy Spirit.

3.  Unsurrendered living

Romans 8:9 states, “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” We now have God Himself living in us, with His own thoughts, feelings, and preferences.  His power is available within us, along with His love, joy, peace, and so much more.

Yet to gain these we must yield fully to Him in all aspects of our living every day.  We must deny the evil tyrant of our self-life and seek only His life in us in place of our own.  As Paul said it to the Galatians,

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no long I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

When we fully surrender to the Spirit of Christ in us, we begin to experience a joy that can overflood our circumstances.

4.  Quenching the Holy Spirit

Hurry, noise, and crowds.  From the time we are little kids until we are older adults our lives are now jam-packed with hurry, noise, crowds, and busyness.  We can be “in a crowd” on our digital platforms, immersing ourselves in entertainers and diversions.   Talking heads, favorite musicians and playlists soccer, dance, music, work, chatting; we fill our living and our kid’s living to the brim every single day.

All of this busyness, noise, and overfilled living quenches the Spirit.  Sadly, western Christians are master-class level at quenching the Spirit.  

5.  Grieving the Spirit

In Ephesians 4:30, Paul says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.” The New Testament Recovery Version explains grieving the Holy Spirit this way:

“To grieve the Holy Spirit is to displease Him. The Holy Spirit abides in us forever (John 14:16-17), never leaving us. Hence, He is grieved when we do not walk according to Him (Rom. 8:4), that is, when we do not live according to the principle of reality with grace in the details of our daily walk.”

There are various was in which we can grieve the Holy Spirit in us.   One example is the entertainment choices. So many of the entertainments available to the western Christian are sources of grief to the Holy Spirit.  This includes what we read, find funny, view, or even dwell on in our minds.   What we pursue either draws us into our union with our God or draws us away from Him and occupies us with lesser or purely evil diversions.  How we choose will impact our experience of true joy.

6.  Mistaken Searching

Mistaking circumstantial happiness and worldly pleasure for joy will lead us down the wrong path in seeking joy.  The world passes of as joy the lesser experiences of happiness and worldly pleasures.  Our previous posts in this series have addressed the mistaken searches.

As I have sought to cleanse my living from more and more of the sins, areas of unbelief and unsurrendered living, and the influences that either quench or grieve the Holy Spirit in me, an amazing thing has happened. Rather than having an empty existence, I have found life to be fuller and more abundant, more focused, and more meaningful.  The joy of the Lord has filled more of my living.

If the choices explored above have interfered with the work of the Holy Spirit and your experience of true joy, repentance is in order. Grace and joy flow into the space we make for them. Finding true joy will not happen except along that path of repentance.

In the next post in this series we will explore recovering joy

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