Open Your Bible
Psalm 16:1-11, Romans 15:5-13, 1 Peter 1:8-9
Backstage, before any school music theater performance, our teacher would remind us: “Put on your Disney face!” The “Disney face” was a term meant to encourage happy, bright faces. We were to hold an extra twinkle in our eye, plaster on the largest smile, and over exaggerate each movement while we were on stage, to look as happy and as animated as a Disney character. But it was a façade. It was acting. Our smiles cracked around the edges, and the stage makeup smeared under the hot, heavy lights. The portrayed happiness was left onstage, a fleeting moment and not a reflection of the pain and problems of life off stage. Because in a high school musical, the story tends to end with a “happily ever after.”
When I think of a Christian’s joy, I often think the world sees it as a fake, plastered-on type of joy. They believe we either ignore the real pain around us, choosing to remain ignorant of it, or we “fake it ‘til we make it.” After all, how could we possibly have genuine joy when everyone knows life is difficult and hard?
But “Disney face” happiness is not the true joy the Bible talks about. Biblical joy is not dependent on circumstances, nor is it something we have to force ourselves to feel. Our source of joy doesn’t come from ourselves; it is sourced by God who fills us “with all joy and peace” as we trust in Him and allow the Holy Spirit to help us through the trials and pain of life (Romans 15:13).
To see me in real life, it might be easy to assume I’m a joyful person, and many would find it difficult to grasp that I struggle with depression and anxiety. These symptoms pop up out of nowhere, and they can make me feel out of control, unable to pull myself out of the grief and fear that I experience. Yet, despite my personal dark seasons, there is an underlying presence of joy that continues. It is the Holy Spirit who holds the grief and the joy together and allows both to exist at the same time.
Even though I may feel afflicted, I am not crushed. When I feel struck down by circumstances, I am not destroyed (2Corinthians 4:8–9). The power of Jesus to overcome sin, darkness, and pain gives me a source for joy. I can delight in a God who is not only sovereign over my life, but is also loving and slow to anger, compassionate and gracious (Exodus 34:6). And when things are tough, beyond my own ability to find a glimmer of joy, I am met in the midst of my pain. In His presence there is “abundant joy” (Psalm 16:11).
So, despite how others may perceive our joy, we have confidence that joy is rooted in something more than a smile on our face. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit, an everlasting hope. And as we walk with the Spirit, we are filled “with inexpressible and glorious joy” (1Peter 1:8).