Many people at this time are looking for an exit strategy out of lockdown, but perhaps more important for Christians is to learn God’s entrance strategy into joy, a joy which is not dependent on happy circumstances or sunny personalities.
The joy God gives us is not dependent on circumstances. Jesus could talk about giving His disciples His joy hours before He died possibly the most painful death imaginable. (John 15:11, John 16:24) He could talk about their joy being complete even though He knew many of them would die a martyr’s death for His sake. Many years before, Nehemiah had spoken words which have proved true down the ages: ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ (Neh 8:10) Paul knew all about this. He knew that the Philippians didn’t have to be frightened in any way by anyone who opposed them. (Phil 1:28) He knew that faith involved not only glory but suffering (Phil 1:29), but he knew, as James did, that all suffering, trials and tests have a redemptive purpose. James said, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ (James 1:2-4) None of us naturally view trials in this way. Any adverse circumstance is more likely to provoke fear, anxiety, resentment and anger in us than it is to produce joy, and yet the constant witness of the Bible is that we can know joy despite our circumstances. We can know contentment whether we have much or whether we have little. (Phil 4:12) We can live in a totally counter-cultural way that becomes the greatest witness imaginable because we know that Jesus loves us and is working for our good in every situation and every circumstance.
Joy is found in knowing who God is and realising He is Lord of all, He’s always good and He is working for our good in every situation. When we get to that point, we are free, no matter what physical chains may be on us. When we get to that point, we can ‘stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.’ (Phil 1:27) We can dance in the darkness and sing in the shadows, as Rend Collective sing. (‘Joy Of The Lord’)