Choosing Joy Over Fear

“The sum, then, is this—that come what may, believers, having the Lord standing on their side, have amply sufficient ground of joy.” John Calvin

Do you feel like you have “amply sufficient ground of joy” each day? Do you feel that “come what may” you could be joyful even still?

With anxiety, I know I have not felt this way. Rather, my anxiety stole my joy, leaving me heavy with sorrow. Though I knew God called me to rejoice, any kind of happiness seemed beyond me. Instead of taking joy in God, my many worries consumed me to the point of sadness as I chose to dwell in them. 

Worries weigh us down. It makes sense that depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand; when we are overwhelmed with concerns, fears, and anxieties, it’s difficult to find any reason to be happy or joyful. Instead, we feel burdened by worry, like it’s a heavy weight we drag behind us each day. 

Thankfully, joy is not a flippant emotion like happiness, based on circumstance or bubbly feelings. Joy is a choice, based on the most secure foundation we could ever have. Our job is to make that choice to replace our fears with rejoicing.

In this first article in our Restoring Peace from Anxiety series, we are discussing how we can renew our joy.

Joy—Not A Flippant Emotion

Unlike what we define as happiness, joy is not based on circumstance. If you read the testimony of Paul in Philippians, that will become evident. 

Paul wrote Philippians while he was under house arrest, chained to a Roman guard. Paul had enemies fighting to not only hurt him physically, but also trying to steal his joy. And yet, if you read Philippians, you will see a man who is characterized by joy and rejoicing. 

  • “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all” (1:3-4 NASB).

  • “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice” (1:18).

  • “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all” (2:17).

  • “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity” (4:10). 

Paul’s joy could not be based upon circumstance or material things. Near the end of this letter, Paul reveals the secret to his astounding joy and contentment:

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

The foundation and source for Paul’s overflowing joy was Christ. Paul kept his gaze not on earthly things, but towards eternity. He didn’t set his focus on the ever-shifting, fading things or circumstances of this world, but on the solid Rock.

If we seek joy and contentment in the things of this world, we will not have that same constant joy in every circumstance that Paul had. But if we base it in the character of Christ and what he has done for us, our joy will forever be secure. 

This kind of joy may not always come with the bubbly, giddy feelings. Because joy is an attitude and not an emotion, it may be present while we cry. Joy is our attitude that hopes in Christ even when our heart is breaking, that clings to his promises even when all we can do is weep. 

The Fight For Joy

This joy doesn’t come naturally. Having this kind of joy requires choosing to fight for it. Our natural disposition is often to remain in a state of hopeless despair and dwell on all the miseries in our lives. And without the happy feelings, that can seem to be the best place to remain.

In those moments, we need to fight for joy like the Psalmist:

“My tears have been my food day and night,
"While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.”
 Psalm 42:3-8 

We can see that the Psalmist is in great distress, pain, and sadness. Yet, through tears, he stops listening to himself and begins talking to himself. Rather than listening to the pain of his current circumstance, he reminds himself of his hope in God. He reflects on God’s previous faithfulness, and tells himself that even still God will be faithful to him. 

If we are to have joy in all circumstances, even in our anxiety, we need to fight in the same way. We need to remind ourselves of the goodness and faithfulness of God. We need to consider his Word and what he has done and says about himself. In our anxiety, we can become depressed with the many worries and concerns that grab for our attention. Rather than dwelling on those, we need to fight for joy by preaching to ourselves about God and his promises. 

Friend, in your battle with fear and worry today, choose joy. Don’t remain in despair, but fight for the joy God calls us to. Preach the truth to yourself and ignore the lies of your emotions.

If you haven’t signed up for the workbook for this series, click on the picture below to receive this week’s memory verse, reflection questions, and homework assignment.

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