When you think of joy in the Bible, what passages come to mind? Philippians is at the top of the list for many people – and rightly so. Paul told the church in Philippi to do all things without grumbling or complaining and to rejoice in the Lord.
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” This is a command
This is a good passage, but there is an overlooked Old Testament book that helps us consider how to find joy amid life’s troubles. Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to understand and the writer, at times, seems to have a hopeless outlook on life. But the book is filled with encouragement to find joy in the everyday, mundane things of life because they are a gift from God. Seven times the author calls upon the reader of Ecclesiastes to seek after joy. (2:24-26, 3:12-13, 5:18-20, 7:14, 9:7-10, 11:7-12:1).
God desires for you to delight in the stuff of everyday life. He wants you to find peace and pleasure and have a smile upon your face – even when things are ugly and hard and the full reality of Genesis chapter three presses in. Over and over the author of Ecclesiastes affirms this – God gives the gift of joy amid toil. The fact that we can enjoy our food, see a sunset, play catch with our kids, read a poem, stand on the beach and gaze at the vastness of the ocean, sleep in, laugh with friends, finish projects and feel satisfied by doing so – all these are gifts from God which we don’t deserve.
God is withholding the full effects of Genesis chapter three. This is God’s grace and He desires for us to enjoy ourselves in this life (under the sun as the author of Ecclesiastes says). God once wiped out all civilization; now He is restraining Himself. But not only is He withholding the full fury of His righteous wrath – He gives us the gift of enjoying life and the things of life – even the mundane and difficult things.
The author of Ecclesiastes says enjoyment in toil is a gift from God, but the author also tells us to “find enjoyment”, “take pleasure in toil”, “accept our lot and rejoice in our toil”, “be joyful”, “eat your bread in joy” and to do our work with might.
God gives the gift of enjoyment but we must do the work of rejoicing. Delight in the mundane is an enigma. God has a role, but we also have a role. God has the decisive role in everything, but He works through appointed means. God wants us to find delight in toil our daily tasks. The way we do that is to seek joy, to fight for delight, and to work at taking pleasure in our duties. As we do, we will find that God is right there giving delight and enjoyment to us.
The book of Ecclesiastes ends by pointing the reader up above the earthly realm, above and beyond the sin-filled, chaotic world in which we live. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Life under the sun isn’t the sum total of life for the Christian. We are to look beyond the toils of this earth to the treasures awaiting us in the new earth. We are to look past, or beyond, the things of this life and into eternity. There we will find reasons to be joyful which transcend our troubles and toils.
Find delight in God and you will find joy in this world.