fruit of the Spirit - joy
Galatians 5 v 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘joy’?
Maybe it’s the holiday you went on last year. Maybe it was finally passing your driving test. It could be that amazing party you had for your friend’s birthday, or wedding, or your exam results. Maybe you've got an Aunt/Cousin/friend called Joy. Or it could be the songs that I can never get out of my head: ‘Joy to the World…’ and ‘I’ve got that joy, joy, joy down in my heart…’.
But, what if that joy isn’t actually deep down in my heart?
Galatians tells us that there is no law against displaying joy in our lives. Instead, joy is an outward display of our inward change. It is an outward display of the truth of our relationship with Jesus. As children, we sing that we have that joy in Jesus deep in our hearts; but as we get older, we realise that being a Christian doesn’t always feel like that easy or happy. As we open our Bibles, we see that we are not alone in this quest for joy. When we look at the faithful men and women who followed God, it looks like their lives were not always full of ecstatic joy (or, at least, the things that we think you need to feel joy). They didn’t always have lovely lives full of Instagram stories about holidays, parties, or good food.
Take David, for example. Look at the Psalms, and you'll see that he was usually on the run from his enemies, he was usually pretty sad, and he often realised he was sinful in pretty horrible ways. But, over-and-over again, David describes himself as full of joy. How? His joy flowed from something - someone - that doesn't change and doesn't end. In the darkest of days, David found his joy in God. God brought him joy. Our God, who is steadfast and unending in his love, brought David something greater than holidays, parties, and good food.
Just look at Psalm 30. In the midst of great despair David says: "joy comes with the morning". How can David be so confident? Because God had given David himself, and that relationship is David's unbending and unbreaking source of joy. So, if joy feels distant, you can know that it is always on the way if you find it in our unchanging and unending God and His unbending and unbreaking love for His people.
But, what does joy in God look like?
Well, it probably won’t be launching out of bed in the morning with a huge smile on your face. It won't mean that you’ll be delighted when your brother hogs the bathroom again. It won’t mean putting on a happy face when your plans for your future don’t work out. Joy in God will probably be a lot harder, and yet also look a lot more normal, than you might have imagined.
The ESV Study Bible says that, “[since] joy … [is] rejoicing in God’s salvation, Christians show that their affections are rightly placed in God’s will and his purpose”. Joy is closely tied to your faith. Joy in God is accepting His will for our lives, and trusting Him in the highs and lows, because we know that He holds us fast through Jesus' death and resurrection for us. This means that we're going to even count hard times as joy (James 1:2-4), because they force us to cling onto Him when we don’t get the results we need, when we don't get the job we wanted, when our boyfriend breaks up with us, or when our friends stop talking to us. Really? Joy in God is the confident trust that, in Jesus, all our sins have been removed, even farther than we could imagine, and so we can rest safely in Him, knowing that the best is yet to come when we get to worship Him forever.
So, how can I pursue this joy?
Our world tells us that if we look inside ourselves, focusing on our needs and giving ourselves a lot of self-care, then we will be happy. But, this joy doesn’t satisfy or last! This joy is fleeting. If we want true and lasting joy, we need to find that in God. We need to know that we are held by God’s love, that He has given us all we need in Jesus. This helps us to become satisfied with the life we have because we know that God has given us all we need to trust Him, worship Him, and live each day. And it reminds us, when life is really tough here, that our perfectly happy life is still yet to fully come in the glory of heaven.
So, my prayer for all of us, as we reach the end of this blog, is found in Romans 15 v 13: “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
I hope that we will all find joy in God. He is for us and we are safe in His love. And that’s the only place where we can find true and lasting joy.