Joyful When I'm Not Happy
2014-11-20
Several weeks ago we began a series from Paul's letter to the Philippian church that we entitled "Impossible Joy."  The Scriptures have resonated with many people as they have applied God's truth to their lives in very practical ways.  But one question that keeps coming is, "How can I possess joy when I am not happy?"  

If we equate happiness with joy than we will never be able to understand how it is possible to be joyful no matter what turn our lives take in God's sovereign plan.  This week, as I studied for Sunday's sermon I came across a small phrase from Paul that might help us to understand how we can be joyful even when we are not happy.  

In Philippians 2 as Paul is sharing his travel plans with the Philippian church he begins to commend one of his co-laborers in the Gospel.  Epaphroditus was not only one of Paul's partners in hardship but a Philippian as well.  He was well-known among the church and in fact was sent to help Paul during his time of need.  As Paul is commending Epaphroditus he shares with the church that his friend had become incredibly sick - even unto death.  Paul says that if Epaphroditus had died that he would have had to endure "sorrow upon sorrow" but that God had spared Paul from such mounting sorrow.  

Did you catch that?  Paul tells the church that he is already sorrowful and that if his friend had died he would have had to endure even more sorrow upon the sorrow he had already endured.  How can this be?  Isn't this the same Paul who has said that he is rejoicing in all things?  Isn't this the same Paul tells the church to rejoice in all things?  How could Paul simultaneously endure great sorrow and still say that he is joyful and even command others to rejoice.  

We can't be entirely sure why Paul was sorrowful though we can take a pretty good guess.  He was in prison and fighting for his life.  His deep passion for the uttermost parts of the known world were being tempered by a Roman cell.  And yet, even in his sorrow he possesses deep joy.  

Many Christians have a misunderstanding of grief, sorrow and the role that joy has in our deep sorrows.  The reason for this confusion is because joy does not always equal happiness.  In the context of Philippians joy is not necessarily happiness.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that is only possible in adverse conditions as the Spirit does His work in us.  Joy is also a fruit of walking daily with Christ.  
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