With COVID-19 declared a pandemic, cases sweeping the nation, and schools, businesses and even our local churches on lockdown, I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a little tense. I find it interesting that in the midst of all of this, the next fruit of the Spirit in this series is joy. That seems like the farthest thing from my mind right now.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
I remember that in the midst of one of the most physically challenging times of my life, my mother-in-law told me: “You’ve lost your joy.”
To be honest, at first I was offended. Defensive. Of course I’d lost my joy! I was in pain every single day.
My friends and peers were moving on with their lives: advancing in their careers, going on adventurous vacations, exploring the latest fitness craze. I was 25 years old and walking with a cane. I could hardly adventure to my bathroom, let alone outside.
The thing about her statement, though, is that it was true. I had lost my joy. My focus had become on my physical circumstances instead of my eternal status. Sound familiar?
And, of course, as my joy ebbed away, so did my husband’s. A lack of joy affects not only yourself but those around you. Joy may seem like something “extra” in Christianity – like it’s nice, sure, but as long as we have all the other things, we’ll be okay.
But joy within a Christian is what signals to ourselves, others and Satan that we are truly thankful for what Jesus has done for us. It displays the fact that we know this world is not our home, that we are looking to an eternal place.
So, what is joy?
The Greek word here for joy is chara, which translates to calm delight, gladness. It implies gratitude.
We’re not talking about being chipper. We’re not even talking about being happy. Joy is much deeper than that – it is a root, a wellspring of stillness and delight in God.
It’s not based on what’s going on around you, rather its foundation is within you.
Joy bubbles up within us, like a fountain of living water, originating in the power of Jesus’ resurrection and the Holy Spirit in us.
Let’s dive deeper into what the Scriptures say about true joy.
1. True joy comes from God
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13
Like I said in last week’s meditation on love, joy doesn’t come to us by our own hard work or pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. It is rooted in God. For true joy, we have to turn to the Creator of our souls.
I love this verse because it implies that when we trust God, He will fill us with joy. So let me ask you, mamas: if you’re having difficulty finding joy, how’s it going trusting God? What are you worried about? What’s filling your mind with sorrow and anxiety?
Last year I was having a hard time finding peace and joy in God and so I did an exercise that I’ll repeat regularly. I took my journal and drew a line down the middle of one page. On one side I wrote my fears. On the other side I wrote scriptural responses to those worries.
This exercise was so effective for me that I stopped writing my fears – all I did was keep searching for scriptures to fill up my heart and mind. It was powerful!
2. True joy happens regardless of circumstances
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.James 1:2-3
Sometimes we assume that we go through difficulties because God is punishing us – or maybe even because God doesn’t like us. But what this verse tells me is that at least one of the reasons why we go through trials is to refine us.
The word “perseverance” here can sometimes be translated as “patience.” In response to this, David Guzik explains: “It isn’t so much the quality that helps you sit quietly in the doctor’s waiting room, as it is the quality that helps you finish a marathon.” This life is a marathon, and God knows what we need in order to finish it.
When we face trials, we have a choice of how to respond: with joy, or bitterness, with faith, or fear?
3. True joy is a result of our perspective and priorities
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:8-9
“Inexpressible and glorious joy.” Wow! That sounds amazing. Epic.
But if I’m being honest, that doesn’t usually describe me. Or maybe ever. So what’s the disconnect? The latter half of that verse says that we are receiving the end result of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
What is the end result of our faith?
Deliverance from death.
Acceptance into God’s eternal kingdom.
Complete and total purification, the expunging of all of our sins.
All of our guilt: gone.
All of our deepest fears: taken care of.
When we trust in God, we can be assured that He will take care of the most important things.
THAT should fill us with an inexpressible and glorious joy. And, if it doesn’t, keep fighting for it. Maybe you don’t have that joy because you don’t realize (or never realized) just how lost you were and how much in need of Jesus’s saving you were. Or perhaps you need to meditate on the power and glory of Jesus’s resurrection.
This week, in the midst of COVID quarantines and school lockdowns, spend some time thinking and praying about Heaven and all that God has in store for you. For some reason we have this strange idea that heaven is going to be a bunch of floating cherubs with harps or a super-mega-long church service…forever.
Just think about this: the God who created the cosmos, who made beauty and nature so wild and varied, the one who gave you a sense of humor and invented creatures like llamas and basset hounds…is HE going to bore you for eternity?!
I don’t think so. I have no doubts that Heaven will be the most captivating, exhilarating, wondrous place we’ve ever experienced.
So, mamas, I hope that no matter what else happens this week that we will find joy in the fact that we are forgiven and that we have the hope of Heaven ahead of us. Let’s fight against the onslaught of bad news by remembering the Good News – and sharing it with those around us. Share this article with someone who needs some joy today.