Advent 3: What Happened to Your Joy?

What has happened to all your joy? – Galatians 4:15 (NIV)

 When we moved from town to the country 40 years ago, we planted three kinds of fruit trees. I had visions of homegrown apples in bowls on the counter and sparkling jars of fresh canned peaches and pears.

For the most part, though, the vision remained just a dream. The apple trees never bore fruit, never grew more than three feet high, thanks to the deer. The peach tree produced luscious peaches for a few years then shriveled up and died. 

The only fruit trees remaining are two pear trees. One is dwarfed—I think because my son shot an arrow through it when it was still quite young. The other is leafy and laden with fruit come late summer, but the pears are small, misshapen and marked with black dimples. 

To produce more and better fruit, the trees need cultivated and nurtured. The problem is we don’t have a clue. Or maybe it’s because we haven’t made the trees a priority. Until we get serious about those trees, until we take the time to learn how to care for them and then do it, the trees will struggle along, producing little usable fruit.

I tell you this story because, like fruit trees, the fruit of the Spirit also needs to be cultivated and nurtured.  

Take joy, for example.

If there is anything missing from society today, it’s joy. Just look at the faces of people you see every day. Even believers, who should be oozing joy, are not. Joy should set us apart right off the bat. 

Do you remember the joy you had at salvation? Overflowing, spilling out, you couldn’t contain it. Then little by little, life robbed you of that joy. 

Life is going to happen. Although we can’t control it, we can control our reaction to it. We can choose joy. We can make it a priority and nurture it. 

How?

First, be aware of the joy stealers that chomp away at it or shoot it right in the heart. “If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into” (Luke 12:39 NLT). Know the burglars will come. Don’t let them in.

Forgetfulness is one of those burglars. Stuck in the mire of this earthly life, we forget our past and our future: from what we’ve been saved and what awaits us in heaven.

Legalism is another joy stealer. Religion—all that we do to try and earn heaven (which can’t be earned—see Ephesians 2:8–9) binds us. Relationship—our personal relationship with God through His Son—frees us. 

Unconfessed sin, disobedience, worry, anger, people and life are other joy stealers.

Being aware of these thieves will make you more alert when they try to rob you. And when they do, don’t let them in.

How can you replace the joy you’ve lost?

Simple: Ask the joy-giver—God Himself—to fill you with His joy and help you to sustain it. Seek His presence (“In your presence is fullness of joy.” – Psalm 16:10).

Choose joy. Nurture and cultivate it. Then spread it around, letting it overflow, spilling over onto those around you. 

 As we light the third candle on the Advent wreath — the pink one, which represents joy—may we remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Amen.

Read and reflect on Galatians 5:22–23.

            © 2015 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

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God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3

Spout ‘N’ Pout

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            The fruit of the Spirit is … self-control. – Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV)

At the beginning of every year, I write out my goals for the coming year. In January, I noticed that “lose weight,” “manage time better” and “get out of debt” were three recurring ones, going back years and years and years—and ones on which I’d made little, if any progress.

“Hmmm,” I thought in a moment of brilliant self-revelation. “Looks like I have a little problem with self-control.”

I’ve lost and gained the same 15 pounds several times now.

Time management is almost as difficult. One of my recent weekly goals was “be more realistic in setting goals.”

As far as the finances, well, we all know how impossible it seems to get out of the hole once you’re in.

But I’d been making progress—slow, but inching ahead—until I overdrew the checking account. I’d scheduled a credit card payment to be made on the due date, figuring one of my writing checks would cover it. Normally it would have, but the check was late—a week late. And I’d forgotten about the payment.

When I went online to balance the account and noticed the $25 overdraft charge, I was sick—especially when I noticed that it had been deducted within the past hour.

I was mad. Mad at myself. But madder at God.

“I’ve been trying so hard, Lord,” I complained. “And I’ve been doing so well. How could You do this to me?”

And I’d had such a good attitude earlier that same week when an order for 100 of my books fell through. “Oh, well,” I said at the time. “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Then came the overdraft—and this cookie crumbled.

“It isn’t my fault the check was late,” I whined. “And, in regard to that canceled book order, I didn’t count my chickens before they were hatched. The guy said in the spring he wanted the books. It was only last week that I noticed the money would have nicely taken care of the fall taxes, the heating oil, and the car insurance. How could You do this to me?”

I spouted. I pouted. I spouted some more. I still maintained my peace about the book order, but I stewed and spewed about the overdraft.

It took several days of complaining to the Almighty that it wasn’t my fault, I had no control over when the check came in, but He did. Yada, yada, yada.

Somewhere during one of my non-spewing moments, it occurred to me that if I’d put some money aside as a cushion, to cover the payment should a check come late, instead of living from paycheck to paycheck, I’d have avoided the overdraft.

OK, so I knew that all long. I just wouldn’t admit it.

So now I’m trying to squirrel away a little bit every payday in a “cushion fund.”

Live and learn. Even in your senior years.

I don’t know if you’d noticed, but the past several columns have covered the Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and faith. But I struggled with the last one—self control.

Sigh. I still do.

Dear God, I tend to forget that everything You allow in my life has a purpose. Thank You for reminding me. Amen.

Read and reflect on Galatians 5:2223 and Psalm 40

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.