“2016 has been one of the worst years, don’t you think?” I have heard this sentiment from a number of people. I don’t know if it is the celebrity deaths, if people have truly had terrible years, or if it is just a matter of perspective. One thing I love is that, being part of a great church family, we get to go through the hard times together.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” What is this joy, and what would it mean to have joy in 2017? Paul’s letter to the Philippians talks a LOT about joy – and he wrote the letter while in prison. I lose my joy if I don’t get enough sleep, if I miss a meal, or if people are angry with me. What did Paul understand about joy that I do not?
The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” Wait – WHAT?! Jesus died for JOY? What is immediately clear is that the Bible is talking about a type of joy that we do not naturally understand. This is a joy that is not based on circumstances – or even immense pain. God’s joy, so it would seem, is not formed outside of pain but formed through pain. The Lord uses our hardships to bring us beyond the pleasures of this world, beyond what we can see – to true joy. I have seen it; I have felt it; I just need to practice it more!
While I was just on vacation I got a chance to climb a little mountain in my hometown. When I got to the mountaintop it was such a feeling of elation – a glimpse of joy. I am starting to think about joy like climbing that mountain. It was hard. It hurt. But being on top of the mountain means so much more than seeing the picture. The picture could never replace the experience. I wonder if so many of us want the experience but not the pain to get to the top, not realizing the pain of climbing is part of what makes standing on the top so joyful. Or maybe we settle for the picture of God’s joy and wonder why it is not compelling enough.
One last note – we always need to support each other. We know that pain is part of running after the Lord. (This illustration means a lot to me, because I really don’t like running – it is WAY too painful for me!) But it still means a lot when people are running with you or cheering you on. We need support. Keep running and experience the joy that is only in the Creator.