Lately the Lord has been teaching me what joy is, and so I wanted to share a little bit of my personal journey with you.
The first thing I had to realize (and the most important) is that I was underestimating the love of God. God loves us with an everlasting love; an agape love. This love is not a feeling; it's a commitment. As Jonathan Covey said, "Love is the commitment to keep on keeping on regardless of the circumstances around you, the feelings within you, or the consequences ahead of you." This is what God does, and what we should do. The Bible says "Whom He loves, He chastens," (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:7) and it also says "If ye love me you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15)
If our circumstances aren't particularly "joyful" in the moment, they are still from God, and they are still for our good. When we long for more we are essentially saying "God, what You've chosen to give me isn't good enough for me." What a hateful attitude to have! It is embracing death instead of life when we think that way.
I have an analogy for discontentment that is becoming cliche in my circle of friends, but I'll share it anyway. Pretend you're Pilgrim (from Pilgrim's Progress). It's the scene where Pilgrim kneels at the cross and his burden is loosed and rolls away. Discontentment is running after the burden, scooping it up in your arms, and carrying it during the rest of your journey. Simply put, its choosing to wallow in the depths of despair.
The second thing I had to realize is that I am selfish. I want to serve God when it is convenient for me. I want to be joyful only when my feelings are happy. Joy is not reserved only for emotional highs: joy should be lasting.
Like love, joy is a choice we make. It's not a feeling. Happiness is a feeling, and the two should not be confused.
Joy stems from Christ. Not circumstances. Not feelings.
And choosing joy is never going to be easy if you rely on your own strength. If it were up to me I'd wallow in bitterness and loneliness forever. I'm human. You're human. Humans are happy when their flesh is basking in it's laziness. But here is where I come to my last point.
Grace. God gives so much grace to us. Because He is gracious we should be gracious, too. And because He is gracious we should not be discouraged at our failings. So, you were discontent, or you failed at having grace for someone, or you cried because you forgot that with God you are never alone? Get over it. Get over yourself.
Look to Jesus. He is perfect. He is enough. You or I will never, ever, ever be enough. Not without Him. So because He chose you, you can choose joy.
Choose His burden over your own flesh. He said "Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden; and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) It will always be worth it, but only because He is worth it.
I hope that was even a little bit helpful. God knows I fail, but God knows I am His. There is grace for every need. Choose joy, my friend. Choose Him.
This happened. I wanted to encourage a friend, and wound up deciding to post this here. If just one of you is encouraged/convicted, it's worth it. Love you guys.