We’re in our Alphabet of Faith series and “J” is our letter for this week. I didn’t debate long on this. It was, frankly, between Jesus and joy. There was no way I was going to try and reflect on Jesus in a few short paragraphs so that left me with…
“J” stands for Joy!
Joy can be described as gladness, delight, happiness, contentment, rapture, and bliss. Joy may borrow a little bit of its meaning from each of these words (and some others too) but it has its own unique defining reality. After all, happiness often depends on what’s happening but joy isn’t necessarily limited to what’s going on. Joy can be rapturous, but it also can be more subdued than that.
I know what joy looks like. It looks like a toddler chasing bubbles. It looks like a bride and groom getting rained on by rice. It looks like the cartoon character Snoopy doing a toe dance with his nose up in the air.
In the Bible joy seems to be almost always tied to God, to God’s blessings, and to being in God’s will. “Joy in Jesus” is one way of putting it. But we who have determined to be followers of Jesus, seeking to live fully committed lives to Him, don’t always feel joyful.
On the one hand, joy for followers of Jesus should come naturally. Joy is part of the gift fruit basket given us when God’s Spirit lives within us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” Galatians 5:22) It’s to be a natural by-product of living a God-focused life. I know, this makes me uncomfortable too! I don’t always feel I have this joy. After all, there’s a lot going on in life, even in this very day, that seems to be a major joy-inhibitor.
My discomfort, however, finds some comfort in something the apostle Paul wrote while he was incarcerated for his faith (not a natural environment for joy). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) He’s actually commanding his fellow Christians to have joy. He’s saying we can choose to have joy, that we can be intentional about cultivating joy. After all, if Paul could write of joy from a jail then there’s hope for me, and you too, right?
The more I think about it, maybe Snoopy exhibits the right position for experiencing joy – nose and eyes pointed upward with feet only dancing lightly on the ordinary earth. This world we walk on is a fallen world but we can choose to look up, look up to God. Our joy is from heaven, not from earth.
So, in the midst of the challenges, disappointments, hurts, confusion, and the trudging away at things, we are invited to focus on our great God. We’re invited to focus on His love for us, on His care for us, on His sure and certain plan for us that unfolds even when things don’t seem to be going according to our plans. When we embrace God we embrace His joy for us! Choose to embrace Him today! Choose to embrace His joy!