What does it mean to abide in Jesus?
I have an ache. It is a valid one. There are two things that pierce the human heart: beauty and affliction. Of course, we all long to be endlessly loved; we are made in the image of a God who is endlessly loving. I ache with desire because I am meant for a life that is not yet mine. When I am hurt I run to a quick fix because I know my heart need fixing. The full list of happy quick fixes available would fill a book. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are the quartet of neurotransmitters that make us feel happy. Getting a text on your phone releases dopamine, and so does just looking at it. Maybe you were wondering why some people admit to feeling glued to their cell phones. It provides a happy jolt. So does sugar. So does alcohol. The list is long, and some of the items on it bear the potential for much more harm than others. I love feeling happy. Absolutely love it. Who doesn’t? But my pursuit of it has sometimes gotten me into trouble. I’m pretty sure it’s gotten you into trouble too. Sometimes I wonder if, in our mad pursuit of happiness, we run right past the joy that might be ours. Joy is not happiness. Joy is something entirely different. Joy is connected to God and reserved for those who are tapping into His reservoir (Psalm 1), who are connected to His life (John 15). Joy is rooted in God and His kingdom, in the surety of His goodness, His love for us. It is immovable. Unshakable. Joy is available at all times, day and night, because God and His kingdom are always available to us. Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates from Jesus’ heart, so as we grow closer in relationship with God, we’ll also grow in joy. In the short book of Philippians—only four chapters long—Paul uses the word joy sixteen times. Paul did not write from a position of denial but from a position of sober and joyful reality. Right there in his chains, he wrote about “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Phil. 3: 8). Paul knew something; he experienced something. The word he uses here to describe his experience—his knowing—isn’t theoretical. Paul had experienced God in such a way that even in jail he could find a very real joy as he fixed his gaze on Jesus. He wasn’t faking it either; he wasn’t living in some form of spiritualized denial. Here in his treatise on joy he speaks honestly of his sufferings (Phil. 1: 29–30). He later describes being “poured out like a drink offering” (2 Tim. 4: 6). Paul wrote his letters with an indisputable hope that burned all the brighter because he didn’t deny his suffering. Whatever else this means, it tells us that joy is available no matter our circumstance. As the psalmist wrote, “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30: 5). This isn’t the Christian bait-and-switch. This isn’t for “someday.” No. Joy is promised now, and it is our inheritance. There is a way to joy. The key is walking that way with our gaze set on Jesus, even when the way is dotted with suffering.