It is common for us to associate joylessness either with external circumstances or with how we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem. So, in either case, something has happened, or is still happening, which makes us feel joyless or which makes us feel deprived of love and a good self-image, which makes us feel joyless.
We know, Biblically, that the kind of joy which does not depend upon circumstances or others filling our "love cups" is rooted in something higher, something transcendent. Yet, often times there are situations in which joy just seems to evade us. We know, looking at them objectively, that far worse things could happen. We know that our situation is not as bad as losing our whole family, or being tortured and imprisoned. It isn't as bad as about a million horrible situations our warped minds can think up. But still, for some reason, this one situation keeps arising, and just about every time it bowls us over.
It is not merely that joy is robbed from us. The hand-maidens of joylessness also creep in: discouragement, bitterness toward others, hopelessness, loneliness, and maybe anger and wrath. We may even know, intellectually, why joylessness exists and that it is an attitude of the heart. We can't control or change the circumstance -in fact, trying to is what has led to so much exhaustion and bitterness and joylessness, but we just can't seem to get our heart around the idea that we can be joyful in it.
Maybe there is a perceived (or real) "injustice" happening in our lives, maybe almost every day. Our attempts at remedying the situation have failed more times than we can count, and yet we awaken again to it another day.
Today was one of those days for me. It sounds simple: joy relates to Jesus Christ being the ultimate treasure of your heart, your Lord, your Refuge, your Hope, your Identity. But in practice it is sometimes very hard. You know He should be those things to you, but at that moment, for some reason, He isn't -something else is, and it has been threatened. It is funny how frustrating situations reveal the deepest idols of our hearts. Some are so deep that we can't even see them for what they are -we just know they are there.
What do I want?
Is it really such an ultimate thing?
What am I valuing or treasuring?
Has God ordained it for my good, to conform me into the image of Jesus Christ? (Yes)
Is my own honor something I should hold on to, or should I let go of it and consider it wonderful to be a servant? (The latter)
Am I focusing on the sins of others and how they have inconvenienced me? (Yes)
What is the LORD teaching me?