I recently set off on a journey, down the path of the Fruit of the Spirit. The first stop was the Fruit of Love. I lingered there briefly, taking in what my Father spoke to me about love. It was a time to appreciate the love He showers down on me always. Though I was happy to bask in the wonder of His love, I did not linger long, as it was time to journey on. I set off down the path again, this time to find myself stopping to experience the Fruit of Joy.
To have the Joy of the Fruit of the Spirit is not the same as being happy. To be happy is fleeting. Itís something that comes and goes and seems to change with the wind. Or if youíre like me, it changes with the traffic. Happiness is not something to count on or trust, because in our busy, hectic, always in overdrive world, itís very easy to go from happy to irritated, or happy to sad, or happy to frustrated, or, well, you get the picture. The point is, happy can turn on a dime.
Joy, on the other hand, is more than happy. Joy is something that goes deep inside you, to the dark recesses of your soul, and fills it with light. It is the light of having a relationship with God. It is a light that stays lit even when darkness looms. The joy of the Lord doesnít come through external circumstances, but rather from an internal peace and knowledge that no matter what the situation, God is in control and His love and power will carry you through. I know this from personal experience.
Just over two years ago, I had a miscarriage. Iíd never experienced such grief. But in the midst of that grief, I still had joy. My Father, in His great mercy and grace, showed me that my little one was with Him in Heaven, and would never know pain, sickness, sadness or tears. I was able to draw strength and comfort from the joy that was deep within me. No, it didnít take the sorrow away, but it did give me hope, and it helped me to make it through. Was I happy? No, absolutely not. But the joy of the Lord never left me. At that time, I really understood Romans 15:13, ďMay 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.Ē
Spiritual joy, or the joy of the Lord, rises up from deep within us, regardless of the circumstances. The Bible tells us in Nehemiah 8:10, ďthe joy of the Lord is your strength.Ē When we are in the midst a storm in our life, we can trust that if we choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord, if we choose to draw on the joy He has deposited in us, we will then be strengthened to withstand whatever may come. This joy of the Lord gives us strength to endure to the end, knowing that if we do not grow weary in doing good, we will reap a harvest if we donít give up (Galatians 6:9).
So, how do we grow in joy? Thatís where external factors come in. There are various activities one can engage in that help to build the joy in your life. Living a life that is holy and pleasing to God builds our joy. Practicing hospitality and helping others who are in need builds our joy. Giving an encouraging word to someone who is hurting or lonely builds our joy. Knowing we are doing something to make anotherís life better builds our joy. In other words, laying self aside and doing things that are not about us builds our joy (and kills our flesh). Isnít that something to rejoice over?
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. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. Ė Hab. 3:17-19