For such a small word these three letters hold potential for monumental impact on our journey in faith.
Joy easily spills out in moments of blessing, when life is well. When God feels close. The light of His favour burns bright and we feel this resource rests happily at our fingertips. But could we have been so foolish to presume that in the context of Christian living, joy is inevitable?
Joy takes work. Some days it will come as easily as breath in our lungs, but others it may feel like an unreachable star. We must try to reframe it as an attitude of heart and spirit - an internal positioning towards God and away from disappointment and frustration.
How could our day to day living be dramatically transformed if we started to treat joy as both daily decision and default status?
This is decidedly countercultural. We are so easily affected - a rickety ship tossed in the wind of our emotions. However, what the Bible proposes is a switch in the perspective of our thinking from reactional to relational. We ought to focus on the things of God and the relationship we share, asking that He would constantly reveal more joy to us. We can witness how this begins to change our thinking, reflects in our character and seeps out into our spheres of influence. When will we finally realise that it is not dissatisfaction, annoyance or discontentment but rather joy that is a reserve of greatest strength?
'Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength' - Nehemiah 8:10
If joy is a “fruit of the spirit” and a spiritual directive, it should become part of the natural configuration of our lives. We are saved, loved and abundantly free. If we choose to abide in this love, our joy is made complete.
'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.'
- John 15
As followers of Christ, striding each day in step with Him and in the beauty of His illuminating grace - one would hope that joy should escape from us with every second, like radiant rays of sunshine through fragmented glass. How incredible to think that, as the joy of the Lord rests in our hearts, those in our midst encounter something of God just by interacting with us.
People could glance at us and see divine reflection.
But it isn’t a cake walk.
Attempts to find joy in the mundane are grating. Mistakenly joy can be considered as contextual, however this is a shaky foundation; our circumstances have the ability to change as suddenly as the direction of the wind. As our minds continually renew, we learn to boldly expect joy in things yet unseen in the foreknowledge that it will come.
'For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.'
- Psalm 30:5
Surely we are repeatedly filled with joy as we spend time in His presence and as we recount all that God has done in His redemptive work. We continue to feel aftershocks of this outworked in us and in the people God has placed before us.
'The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.'
- Psalm 126:3
We need to stop being so consumed by our own thinking and lift our gaze to take a look around. Creation. Family. Friends. Hope. Truth. Promise.
What a privilege it is to act as champions of the ideas, dreams and successes of those we love, knowing that God has creatively orchestrated them. Joy is the attitude, our response is gratitude. It is not a final destination, therefore we ought never to wait to be happy. It is the outward expression of an inward response to the call of God upon you.
Choose joy, even when it feels unnatural, in the assurance that God will honour the hard times. God beckons you into fullness of joy and a limitless life, why would you want to wait another minute?
'The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'
- John 10:10