It’s pretty hard to hear the news these days. Circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 escalate day after day. The so-called experts interviewed in news reports fail to articulate answers about how to really solve problems. In fact, they aren’t even able to fully explain the problems in the first place! With such a lack of reliable information available, it is hard to believe that anyone has a plan to improve things any time soon.
With unemployment rates increasing and basic freedoms being stripped from people worldwide, there will be casualties of COVID-19 beyond those who have become infected. Depression, suicide, domestic violence, and substance abuse are among the destructive agents that will undoubtedly result from measures put into place by the world’s governments. The bad news of the pandemic will turn worse. Unfortunately, there is a grim outlook for the immediate future in the world we live.
With bad news lurking behind each corner, it is important for our wellbeing to have a source of joy in our lives that we can trust in. But where can we find it? How is it possible to find joy in the trial that spreads around the world? Clearly, the answers to these questions are different for each of us individually. But as hard as they might be to answer, it is critically important that we take the time to make sure that we do have an answer. If we do not make the effort to find true, meaningful, virtuous joy in our lives, our hearts will grow hard. God will not be able to work in our lives if we refuse to find delight in His plan for us. God provides reason for joy in the darkest of times, but if we fail to acknowledge it, we will only fall into deeper darkness.
As His imminent death drew near, Jesus Christ knew that His disciples were going to face difficult times. But He gave them encouragement. First, He explained that His love was reason for joy. “‘As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full’” (John 15:9-11). The joy that Jesus Christ offers to us comes from the knowledge that God loves us, plain and simple. When all else fails, we have this fact to give us hope.
The source of joy that we have in knowing God loves us keeps us grounded, but this does not mean that we will be invincible to the effects of sorrow. Quite the contrary. Jesus Christ also knew that His disciples would suffer and experience sorrow. When preparing them for His death, Jesus said to them, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you’” (John 16:20-22). Again, the reassurance and source of joy come from having a greater perspective – seeing the big picture. Even though we will experience sorrow, it is temporary, and there is a greater future that we are to be a part of.
Certainly, it is comforting to know that we have a wonderful future to look forward to if we stay close to God. But we have to wait for the gratification in receiving that joy. Is there something else we can do to find joy in the present experience of life? Fortunately, the answer is, “Yes!” The method also involves changing our perspective in how we view our circumstances.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon expresses his grief in the endeavor to find enduring satisfaction in the products of his work. He saw that his accomplishments would only be temporary, and felt despair in that ultimate result (compare Ecclesiastes 2:9-23). However, he also reconciles his sorrow by finding reason for joy, even knowing the eventual fate of his work. By finding inherent satisfaction in the process of working hard and the daily experience of life, there is cause for joy. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12). Even in the hard times, we can always continue to put forth our best efforts, whether the results succeed or not. We can find a moment to see the beauty of God’s creation. We can find happiness in sharing a smile with one another. In so many simple ways, life offers ample opportunity to find joy in the moments of our experience.
Truly, it is a gift of God to find joy. By understanding His plan that involves each and every one of us, we have hope for a much better future. By seeing the goodness and beauty that resides in our daily activities, we have solace in the present. By keeping our perspective fixated on remembering our blessings, we will find joy in the places where it seemed to be hiding before.