A Year of Fruit
When I think about joy, I see children. Our Preschoolers evoke a lot of joy each day in their classes. They sing. They dance. They play. They delight in life. When my nieces were little, I enjoyed fun over-nights with them spent laughing, playing and squeezing the joy out of every moment of the day. Children know about joy. They are excited about life and every day is a new adventure!
Creation shows a lot of joy as well. The frogs croak and the birds sing, sometimes even in the rain! Our dog Gus almost knocks himself over wagging his tail with joy. He is full of life and he is excited to be here, wherever “here” happens to be.
I think most of us start off life with joy, but something seems to happen to us as we get older; joy seems harder to obtain. Our joy sometimes gets squashed or buried underneath responsibilities, the reality of circumstances, grief, and work. But the truth is, joy should be with us all the time, in good times and in hard times, when we are young or when we are older. Joy is something that is present with us because God is present with us.
Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor, wrote a book about her experience called The Hiding Place. In it, amongst other incredible things, she talks about how she was visited in her cell in the concentration camp by an ant. It would come and go daily, but for her, it became a source of comfort and joy; she recognized this tiny ant as a gift from God. A “friendly face”, you might say. What a miracle… that even in a concentration camp, we can find joy! This can only be from God!
And that is the truth behind joy. The Greek word in Galatians 5 for joy is chara and it refers to a joy based in our relationship with God. It comes from God. It is because of God. It’s not based on possessions or other earthly things but is rooted in God. It’s not circumstantial, like happiness, dependent upon the events of our day to go well. Joy exists in good and bad times. Habakkuk 3:17-18 says it well: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Even when we have nothing, our joy remains because we have what is needed most: God our King.
Paul says it this way in his letter: “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 13:17). Paul prays for us to have joy and peace, which flow from a relationship with our Hope-giving God. What a delightful bi-product of a life spent with God!
So if you’ve lost your groove and are striving to get some joy back in your life, try the following:
· Trust in God. Lean into him and his care for you.
· Read Scripture and rejoice in the good news it bears
· Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
· Confess to God your sin and start off fresh
· Spend time with loved ones. Delight in the love of others.
· Serve others. Look beyond yourself to see those around you.
Questions for Reflection and Conversation
-What is the difference between happiness and joy?
-When have you found it to be true that the “joy of the Lord is your strength”? (Nehemiah 8:10)
-What do you think are your biggest barriers to joy?
(consider not just external circumstances but also your own attitudes)
-When has God brought you joy in a place or time when you were least expecting it?
Eternal God, how wonderful it is that you bring us joy. You fill us with rejoicing at the good news of your works. Thank you that we can find joy even in hard and painful situations. Thank you that our joy is present because you are present. Hear our prayer for more of you, Christ. Fill us up and restore to us the joy of your salvation. Restore to us a delight in our days. Restore to us a child-like joy that rejuvenates our spirits. Walk with us, Good Savior, and bring us life. Amen.