“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
In an article for the April 2008 Family Room (a FamilyLife publication) entitled "10 Ideas: Reflecting the Fruits of the Spirit," Scott Williams invites readers to use Galatians 5:22-23 as a spiritual health diagnostic.
I found his reflection on joy to be particularly compelling:
"Unlike happiness, joy is gladness that is completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. In fact, joy denotes a supernatural gladness given by God’s Spirit that actually seems to show up best during hard times. This is a product of fixing your focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances."
Doesn't that kind of joy sound appealing? David often challenges me to consider the difference between happiness and joy. When I ask him, "are you happy?" he will usually respond, "I'm joyful." Joy, as Williams describes it above, is a richer, deeper, less self-centered, and more sublime experience. (About my choice to use the descriptor "less self-centered": its seems the phrase "do whatever makes YOU happy" is prevalent in our culture.) Joy comes not from our own efforts or the things of this world; it's sole source is the divine life within us: the Holy Spirit.
I believe all of the above, but I don't think about it often enough. Williams' subsequent question gets to my heart:
"Am I experiencing a joy of life on a regular basis, or is my happiness dependent on things going smoothly in my day?"
In January 2001 I made a Spiritual Exercises retreat in Rhode Island - five days of silence (other than the daily liturgies and lessons). I look back upon that experience as a waterfall of God's grace in my life - the blessings were countless. Among other messages from God, I received His confirmation that I am "Anointed by Joy." I am still unpacking the meaning and implications of this phrase, but in the years since that retreat I have seen its fruit - and its challenge - in many of my relationships. Basically, I am a joyful person when I am spiritually connected with God, and I can bless others with the joy He gives me when I resist Satan's attempts to undermine that joy (especially through worldly distractions). The Lord knows I have failed to BE what He created me to be many times - even daily.
I hear you speaking to me today, God. I know you are reminding me of the joy that comes from the Spirit within me and asking me to receive and share it once again. Please help me, with your grace, to give you glory with the joy you have given to me.
Photo credit: Andrew Hux