As homeschoolers, sometimes life doesn’t feel very joyful, even though the sentimental picture of a joyful day with our children is what we are usually picturing when we first imagine ourselves as homeschoolers.
Then reality hits. Usually, the joy is gone.
I decided to look up all the uses of the word joy in Scripture, and I was struck by the sheer number of them (several hundred). However, the book of Philippians seems to speak about joy more than any other, so I read through it and made some notes.
Joy in the Dispersion
All through the Tanakh, one specific time for joy is mentioned repeatedly: We are to have joy in our feasts to YHWH and joy in Jerusalem as we worship YHWH in His Temple.
“You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to YHWH your God at the place that YHWH will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful” (Deuteronomy 16:14-15).
“Then [Nehemiah] said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Master. And do not be grieved, for the joy of YHWH is your strength.’ So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Nehemiah 8:10-12).
“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place” (1 Chronicles 16:27).
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
“Great is YHWH and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:1-2).
However, most of us don’t live in Israel, do we? Even if we did, or even if we were able to celebrate every feast day in Jerusalem, there is no Temple, no sacrifice, no worship in His presence.
We live in the dispersion.
That’s why I think the book of Philippians is so appropriate. Paul wrote this letter to the believers in the Gentile city of Philistia. What’s more, he wrote it while in chains. Not even the great apostle Paul could travel to Jerusalem for the feasts!
No matter our circumstance, no matter how far we are from the ideal that we long for, we can still rejoice. If you struggle with joy each day, may I suggest you begin by copying this prayer and placing it somewhere easily seen?
“And this is my prayer: that your love may more and more overflow in fullness of knowledge and depth of discernment, so that you will be able to determine what is best and thus be pure and without blame for the Day of the Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua the Messiah — to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11, CJB).
Joy isn’t an artificial thing that we somehow rally up from deep within us. We can’t get it by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Rather, joy is the result of being born again to a new life. When the blood of Yeshua our Messiah cleanses us and His Word is implanted within us, we don’t always see the outward results immediately. However, day by day, as our love for Him grows, and as we learn more about Him and grow in discernment, we become purified. Fruit doesn’t come the same day that a seed is planted. Day by day, the seed of faith is nurtured as we learn to determine what is best and become ever more pure before Him. The resulting fruit of righteousness includes love, joy, and peace (Galatians 5:22-23).
Joy with Others
I encourage you to read through the book of Philippians this week. (It’s not a very long book!) In chapters 1 and 2, take note that how we get along with others has a huge impact on our joy.
- We are not to be jealous of others or compare ourselves to them (Philippians 1:12-18).
- We are to be like-minded, humble, and showing true love (Philippians 2:1-11).
- We are not to complain or argue (Philippians 2:12-18).
- We are to care for the needs of others (Philippians 2:19-30).
Paul calls this “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13). This reminds me of Hebrews 12:22-24, where we read how to come into covenant with the God of Israel because of the shed blood of Yeshua.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in joyful assembly, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).
When we walk in obedience and in covenant with our God, then we are committing to loving YHWH and loving others. Doing so brings us into joyful assembly with the hosts of heaven. No matter where we live in the world, we “have come to Mount Zion” and experience joy. However, when we refuse to love YHWH and love others, all the joy goes out of our lives.
Joy with Our Children
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions the joy he receives when we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Messiah. John writes similar thoughts in his epistles:
“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father” (2 John 1:4).
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
When our children walk in the truth, we find great joy!
Incredibly, this theme is repeated throughout the Tanakh maybe more than any other! Here are some examples from the book of Proverbs:
“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1).
“A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20).
“To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool” (Proverbs 17:21).
“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him” (Proverbs 23:24).
“May your father and mother rejoice; may she who gave you birth be joyful!” (Proverbs 23:25)
“Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt” (Proverbs 27:11).
“A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Proverbs 29:3).
It is clear that obedient, wise children who walk in the truth are a source of joy to their parents! However, is this always in our control? I suppose our children have free will to choose to walk in truth or not; however, as parents we also need to exercise our choice of obedience by teaching and training our children as the Torah commands.
Author Christine Miller recently wrote, “Homeschooling is not the clincher that assures our children will have circumcised hearts to the Lord. But if the parents obey Him, He promises that our children and grandchildren will have circumcised hearts toward Him.”
She then quotes Deuteronomy 30:1-6, which says,
“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where YHWH your God has driven you, and return to YHWH your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then YHWH your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where YHWH your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there YHWH your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And YHWH your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And YHWH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.“
We must never forget that Abraham was chosen because YHWH knew He would teach his children to obey.
“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of YHWH by doing what is right and just, so that YHWH will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19, NIV).
Sometimes effort and training and hard work is required, so that we will reap the fruit of joy in our children.
Joy in YHWH
In Philippians 3:1-4:1, Paul reminds us that we can have joy because of our inclusion in Israel. The hope of our coming Messiah gives us patience in afflictions today and reminds us to pray (Romans 12:12). As we realize the priceless treasure we have by being included as one of His heirs, the Spirit of God helps us overflow with hope (Romans 15:113). Most of all, even in the darkest of circumstances, we have something we can be thankful for!
“…giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:12).
Paul calls this “rejoicing in YHWH” (Philippians 3:1). However, he also says that we need to “stand firm in YHWH” (Philippians 4:1). We do this when we always think ahead to our citizenship in the world to come (Philippians 3:20-21).
We have the examples of many believers who have gone before us who, like Yeshua, endured various crosses and sufferings, for the joy set before them. (See Hebrews 11:1-12:3.) They didn’t see the joy in this life. In fact, anyone looking at their lives would say they had no reason at all for joy. However, they were thinking ahead to a future City, a reality that draws closer every day! Unlike the world, we always have something to be joyful about!
Joy in Our Minds
Joy is something we’ll have when we’re finally rejoicing with our Messiah in His coming kingdom. However, He promises that we can have joy now, too. The book of Philippians concludes by telling us how to choose joy each day by learning self control in our thought life.
Take note of how many practical actions are included in these words:
“Rejoice in YHWH always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. YHWH is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).
We have to choose joy. We do this by being on guard about the things we allow into our minds. Especially as homeschooling moms, we find it takes a lot of discipline to keep our minds focused on lovely things. Colossians 3:15-16 tells us that music can be extremely helpful, as the Tanakh also reminds us.
“David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy” (1 Chronicles 15:16).
“Shout for joy in YHWH, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to YHWH with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts” (Psalm 33:1-3).
So are you struggling with joy right now? First, take some time to read through the book of Philippians, asking the Ruach to teach you how to have joy. Second, make a list of some practical steps you can take today to increase the joy in your home and heart.
Have more ideas? Please share them here!