Do you know when you get so tickled by something that you giggle everytime you think about it after it happens? My son, Owen and I were telling my husband, Wade about a story from school. Owen’s class has had some bullying and damaged relationships so their teacher/school arranged for a retreat to try and repair some issues. The day after the retreat Owen’s teacher told him that the leader shared that he liked that Owen kid. As we relayed this story to Wade, he said to Owen, ” You talked to the Monk?” We immediately cracked up not knowing that Wade was uncertain of the retreat set up, thinking maybe it was lecture style more than interactive. (side note – the leader was actually a monk in training).
God reminded me of this story as I was preparing for this entry about joy. Joy as defined by dictionary.com is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness or rejoice as a verb. Some things that bring a feeling of great pleasure to me and make me rejoice are: Jesus in me, Jesus healing hearts, my husband, my children, friends, my family, babies, baby bunnies, thunder, lightening, rain, walking in the rain, walking, stories that make me giggle, laughter, love, writing, listening to others, spontaneous adventures, my church, smells of spring and summer, flowers, butterflies, sunrises and sunsets… I realized as I began this list it could be quite endless but you get the picture.
Joy comes from the Greek root word chara (pronounced khar-ah’) meaning to be exceedingly glad or the awareness of God’s grace and favour. If I was counting on my happiness from these things, it could rise and fall with the circumstances or the people. True joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is an abiding sense of happiness that is the result of hope, faith and love. The joy I receive from the things on my list are the result of knowing God’s grace and favour and that all good gifts are given by Him. Joy is a consequence of having an intimate relationship with Jesus.
I have been listening to teachings of Graham Cooke lately and they are blowing my mind with his spiritual truths. Joy rises up in my spirit as the truth of his message hits me. I highly recommend any of his teachings posted online. One of the things he says is that the fruit of the spirit is in us already, we just have to practice using it. Galatians 5:22 ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I don’t believe there is any coincidence about the order of this list, the gifts are anchored by love and self-control but joy is the result of knowing God’s love and showing it.
The word joy appears in the Bible 214 times. We can swallow the exciting words about joy in the Word like Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Woohoo, these are sweet promises from God, or Psalm 71:23, “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed.”
What about the passage Hebrews 12:2, ” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the Joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Ok we reason, this is Jesus, the Son of God and even though he was fully human, he was without sin and He knew His purpose was to bring salvation and restore people to God’s heart. His joy was knowing what was to come when He fulfilled His purpose.
How about us? How do we reconcile a passage like this one, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” This one needs a little bit more saliva to make its journey. It is not just joy either, it is pure joy or free of any contamination the definition clarifies. To completely swallow this word, we need a bit more fullness. Verses 3 and 4 continue, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Ahhh a purpose in this paradox. Graham Cooke describes this as two conflicting ideas contained in the same truth. How do trials and joy mix together in one truth? Joy rises in persevering with God through life and trials and our faith is matured and strengthened. I think the trick is to seperate the pain associated with trials and trust the process even if you can’t see the end of it.
I know this is not easy in our own strength but we need to fix our eyes on Jesus as we walk through any trial. He promises in John 16:33, ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” So live life, choose joy, practice it until Jesus comes back. You never know if you will get to talk to a monk 🙂