What has happened to all your joy? – Galatians 4:15 (NIV)
The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy . . . – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)
“What has happened to all your joy?” the apostle Paul asked the first century church in Galatia.
You could ask me the same thing.
A few months ago my joy was overflowing. Then a string of unexpected expenses, disappointments, dashed hopes—you know, the stuff of life—siphoned it out.
I was like a tire losing air. But it wasn’t the events themselves that drained my joy, but my response to them. I worried. I fretted. I wallowed in disappointment. I danced with impatience. I denied my simmering anger because I didn’t know where to direct my ire. I mean, I wasn’t mad at God, was I?
Joy stealers. That’s what worry, disappointment, impatience, and anger are. We lose joy when we run ahead of God, taking things in our own hands rather than wait for Him to work things out in His way and in His time. We lose joy when we pray and then don’t wait for the guidance, wisdom, and discernment we asked for. We lose joy when we don’t trust our heavenly Father and His promises to us in His Word.
In some cases, it’s not a slow leak that causes us to lose our joy but hitting a nasty pothole or something sharp on the road—something you didn’t see coming and couldn’t avoid. Then your tire of joy blows out and you’re stuck alongside of the road of life, a joyless Christian.
But the stuff of life happens. Potholes open up where we least expect them.
So how do we keep the tire of joy inflated?
First, know that trial and tribulation are part of this world and, in the hands of God, work for our good, developing us, transforming us like nothing else can (James 1:2–5; 1 Thessalonians 5:16–19; 1 Peter 1:3–9; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:33).
Know that God is in control, no matter what the circumstances. Remember there’s more going on than you can see. Trust God and continue to obey Him.
Stay in close communication with your heavenly Father through prayer, whether or not you feel like your prayers are reaching heaven, and Scripture, even when the words are bouncing off your brain.
Know that joy and happiness are not the same. Happiness is fleeting, superficial. It waxes and wanes, depending on the circumstances of life. Joy, on the other hand, sinks its roots deep into our spirits, and is nourished by a growing faith and a working relationship with the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t depend on circumstances.
The stuff of life is going to happen to all of us. We choose whether to allow it to suck the joy out of us or let God use it to develop His joy, a fruit of His Spirit, in us.
Help me to thwart the thieves that would rob me of the joy—the fullness of joy—that You have for me. Remind me that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and a fruit of the Spirit that dwells in me. Amen.
Extra tea: Read and meditate on John 15:1–17