What brings you joy? Think about it for a few seconds:
- What brings a smile to your face?
- What makes your heart swell?
- What gives you that glow of pleasure or fills you with laughter such that you feel like hugging someone?
The Christians in Galatia had lost their joy and that was a problem. Where had it gone and what had happened to it? It was important to God that they get it back. But why? Is not being super joyful really a big deal? After all, there’s a lot of lamenting and honesty in the Bible about pain, suffering, and sin. Isn’t the more important thing that we are humbled by and sorry about our sin? We live in a messed-up world that has and is rebelling against the one true and holy God. What is there to be joyful about?
God and his Word will not allow any false dichotomies between sorrow and joy. We are called to them both. If one of them is absent, it’s a sign of spiritual unhealth or worse. The more deeply we grieve over our sin, the greater should be our experience of the joy of our salvation. If we do not experience that joy, there is something deeply wrong with our confession and repentance. Likewise, if we truly lament the brokenness of the world around us, then we will also experience joy and happiness when we contemplate heaven. If we don’t, there’s something wrong with our faith.
Plus – joy is listed as a Fruit of the Spirit. If we don’t experience joy, if our joy is fleeting, or if we tend to be more critical, suspicious, or negative, we might need to wonder where the Holy Spirit is in our lives or if we are grieving, sinning against, or disobeying the work of the Holy Spirit (which would not be good).
In some ways, it’s hard for me to write about joy right now. I’ve personally been struggling with depression for the past several months. (Don’t worry – the elders and my doctor know.) During that time, joy has been fleeting – like a precious but skittish little bird that lands for a second but won’t hang around for long. This isn’t the first time in my adult life that I have struggled with depression, but it has been a long time. I am praying that God would restore to me the joy of my salvation.
But, on the other hand, it has been wonderful, helpful, and good for me to be thinking more about joy right now. The amazing and hopeful truth is that our God wants all his children to know joy! Think about that! God wants us to know happiness, laughter, thankfulness, and rejoicing. He wants us to smile. He desires that our hearts overflow with the jubilation, lightness, and warmth that go along with joy. That is really good news.
So, as we prepare our hearts for worship this Sunday, take some time to reflect on the questions above about joy as you read and mediate on the following passages: Deuteronomy 28:46-48, Romans 14:17, Romans 15:13, and Philippians 4:1-9.
Yours in Christ’s love,