The Joy Stealers

Third in a series on The Fruit of the Spirit

“Grace,” photo by Eric Enstrom

The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy. –Galatians 5:22 NIV

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. –Philippians 4:12 RSV

My grandson and I had an interesting conversation in church one Sunday. The pastor was preaching on the Ten Commandments, and Brent, as usual, was on the fidgety side. So I gave him a notebook and pencil to help burn up some of that nervous energy. He spent the next several minutes copying the Ten C’s in the notebook then showed it to me.

When I got to the last one, I noticed that “covet” looked like “cover.” I wonder if he knows what “covet” means? I thought. At eight, probably not. So I asked him. (Writing in the notebook, of course. It wouldn’t do to talk in church, and with my hearing loss, even with my hearing aids, I can’t hear whispers.)

He shook his head.

“It means to want something that you don’t have,” I wrote. “To want something that belongs to someone else. It’s a sin because it makes you feel jealous and envious of others—and ungrateful for what God has given you. It also leads to stealing, and it robs us of joy.”

I underlined joy twice.

I don’t know whether Brent understood what I was trying to teach him, but it sure gave me plenty to think about.

You see, the past couple of months had been lean as far as my freelance writing and editing go. It seemed as though everything had dried up. The outgo exceeded the income. And we needed both incomes—from my husband’s job and my freelance work. And focusing on the debt was sucking the joy out of life.

So we decided to streamline and simplify. I canceled the satellite TV and the newspaper subscription, and dropped my gym membership. Walking is cheaper and will give me the same results. I substituted skim milk for the expensive protein shakes I’d been drinking and warm skim milk at bedtime in place of ice cream.

I borrowed a relative’s unused bread machine and began baking bread from scratch.

My husband was okay with this.

“It’s what you get used to,” he told me with an I-really-don’t-want-to-do-this-but-I-will-if-you-say-we-have-to look on his face.

I was okay with it, too. After all, I’ve spent most of my life on the “have not” side of things. It’s taught me resourcefulness. And I love a challenge.

One day I pulled out my verse for the day—Philippians 4:12.

I’d always read that verse from the have-not perspective, but this time it hit me: I know how to be abased. I know how to face want and hunger. What I don’t know is how to abound. How to handle plenty and abundance.

I’ve had the chance, and I was unwise. I took the plenty for granted, felt a false security in it, and wanted more—so I could keep up with others whom I secretly envied.

But the abundance didn’t bring me the joy I thought it would. I worried I’d lose it, that someone would steal it, or it would be burned in a fire or otherwise destroyed.

It may be that not having enough steals joy. But the more dangerous joy stealers are covetousness and not knowing how to handle the blessings we’ve been given.

Deep, lasting joy comes from knowing that God will supply all my needs according to His glorious, abundant, limitless riches (Philippians 4:19).

And that’s a promise I can bank on!

Give me neither poverty nor riches, O Lord. Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may become content without You. And if I am too poor, I may steal, and thus insult Your holy name. Amen. (Proverbs 30:8–9)

MORE TEA: Read and reflect on James 4:1–8.

For more on joy and joy stealers, read Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 6; Philippians 4:4–7; Romans 12:12. And, when you’re feeling down, sing a verse or two of “Count Your Blessings.”

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey.

 

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