I’ve Got Joy Down in My Heart
When you hear the word “joy,” what are your first thoughts? Is joy something that’s apart of your life? When you think of joy, do you think of a barren woman? There was a woman in the Bible who desperately wanted to have a child, but had been unable to conceive. To make matters worse, her husband was married to another woman who already had children of her own and this woman mercilessly badgered her about her inability to have children, to the point where she couldn’t eat. This woman was named Hannah, her husband, Elkanah, and the other wife, Peninnah, and her story is told in 1 Samuel 1-2:10. (I highly encourage you to read this passage.)
Hannah cried out in her anguish to the Lord. This was a woman who desperately wanted a child. Hannah prayed to God, promising if He gave her a child, she would return him to His service. Then the Scriptures explicitly says, “The Lord remembered her.” It’s not like God forgot her. It’s not like God was sitting up in heaven thinking to Himself about how He could torture Hannah by withholding a child from her. His plans hadn’t come to pass yet. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” This is not because God is evil. His purposes are often a great mystery to us, but we can take comfort in knowing that “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever” (Psalm 33:11). His plans are much better than our own can ever be. Sometimes, though we don’t understand, He even withholds good things from us like children or allows evil things to happen like Peninnah cruelly taunting Hannah because through His grand plan He receives the greater glory and He perfects us, making us complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
God remembered Hannah. The word ‘remember’ here is not a reference to the forgetful mind of God, but of the providential mind of God. God, in His providence, had made promises to Noah and Rachel and others – made promises to remember His covenant to them. There is not one example in the Bible or in all of history where God has forgotten His promises and not followed through on what He said He’d do.
After Hannah gave birth to Samuel, she remembered her promise to the Lord. She brings Samuel to Eli, the priest, and says, “his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” What a woman of faith! I don’t know if I could turn my child over shortly after he was born to be employed in the service of God. That had to be incredibly hard. But she did it anyway. She held up her end because the Lord had held up His. And God blessed her again for it – she had 3 more sons and 3 daughters (1 Sam 2:21). Can you imagine if you had that much faith in God? Would you be more joyful?
1 Samuel 2:1 says, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” Hannah was able to rejoice because she trusted in God, she listened to His promises, she still worshiped the Lord, and she was remembered. When everything was tumultuous and painful in her life, Hannah could still hope in the Lord because He had a plan for her and He loved her. Romans 12:12 says, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction…” Hannah was afflicted, by the grief of being unable to have her own child and by spiteful words from Peninnah, but she still hoped. And her prayers are evidence of this hope. Does joy look like that in your life?
It may sound impossible, but joy is possible during difficult circumstances. Paul writes in Philippians 4 that he has learned the secret of being content. What was his secret? This little nugget of gold tucked into Scripture: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). God promises strength to His people all throughout the Bible. Isaiah 40:29 promises, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Hannah must have been feeling weak and weary, but she praises God in 1 Samuel 2:4 when she says, “those who stumbled are armed with strength.”
James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…” Like Hannah, we can be joyful when we meet trials head-on, knowing as we are tested, we are being made perfect and complete, lacking nothing!
A heart full of joy is a heart content.
Women of Faith: Listen joyfully to the Lord and be content. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” Listening to the teachings of the Lord is wise and brings wisdom and joy. A little farther down in verse 23, it says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” It doesn’t say that you won’t have trouble in your life as Hannah had trouble, but it says that you will be “untouched by trouble.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39). Be content and listen to that promise with joy!
Married Women: All of us can agree that we want joy in our marriages, but being discontent with your husband, being nit-picky isn’t going to produce joy. The Message version of Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Work at getting along with each other and God. Otherwise, you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Keep a sharp eye out for the weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” Joy fosters contentment, and contentment breeds joy. Listen to your husband with a heart of contentment, without passing judgment, without thinking about all the ways he falls short. Let your husband speak to you confidently, knowing you are working with him in your heart, not against him.
A heart full of joy is a heart of praise.
Women of Faith: If you are bitter, you won’t be able to hear. If you complain, you aren’t listening. Turn your complaining into praise. Turn your bitter suffering into prayers (James 5:13). Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him.” This is exactly what Hannah did. She poured out her heart to the Lord and she listened in hope and with praise in her heart. You can take refuge in the Lord’s grace until destruction passes us by. You can cry to the God of gods, the King of kings, and He accomplishes all things for us. Even when it feels as though your soul is among lions, when you feel as though you’re waiting to be devoured by your enemies, you can praise God, exalting His name, and bringing Him glory with a steadfast heart of praise (Psalm 57). Praise the Lord and listen to these promises with joy!
Married Women: A woman whose heart is full of complaints and bitterness isn’t a woman who listens to her husband. Proverbs states that it’s better for a man to live on the corner of his roof or to live in the desert than to live with a contentious woman. Complaining and nagging are horrible snares that will drag down your husband, not build him up. Ephesians 4:29, 31-32 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such words as good for building (each other) up, according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear…Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other…” Watch your attitude as this will affect how you listen. Let your speech be “seasoned with grace.” Listen with tenderheartedness and kindness, and be quick to praise your husband, not criticize.
A heart full of joy is a heart alive.
Women of Faith: Proverbs 4:23 warns, “Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it flows the wellspring of life.” That’s a pretty hefty warning. Your life depends upon what’s in your heart. What’s to go in our hearts? Colossians 3:1-2 has a few answers for that: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” And joy is a fruit of the Spirit – something from above. Ecclesiastes 3:12 also gives us insight, “I know that there is nothing better for (men and women) than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live.” There is nothing better than for us to be joyful! Listen to the words of God and store up joy in your heart!
Married Women: All of us will agree that you have to be alive to enjoy your marriage. A heart full of joy is a heart that is alive. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” The Message gives further clarification: “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” Dwelling on bitterness, being moody drains your energy and the life from your marriage. Cheer and joy are good for the health of your marriage. Listen joyfully when your husband is hopeful or excited about something. Don’t crush his desire to share things with you by being jealous, bitter, or annoyed. Claim joy in your heart and it will spill out into your marriage and the way you listen to your husband!
This Week’s Prayer:
Women of Faith: Pray that God will equip your heart with joy so deep that it flows over into everything that you do.
Married Women: Pray that God will fill your marriage with true joy, and that despite difficult circumstances, you can claim the promises of God.
Single Ladies: Pray that you will take joy in knowing that the King of the Universe, your Bridegroom has a beautiful plan for your life and you can rest secure.
Ladies in Waiting (aka dating/engaged): Pray that you will be joyful in all circumstances. Even if you are uncertain this “man” in your life is the right one, even as you may be impatiently awaiting the next step in your life, even in the craziness of planning a wedding, pray that your heart would be focused on God first, and that you would take time out of your life with your significant other (or alone) to find joy in life.
Women who are no longer married: Pray that God will use joy as a means of healing in your life, that you will be able to experience true wonderful joy again.