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.

 

Control Freak

 

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. –Galatians 5:22–23 NLT

Growing up as the youngest in a poor family wasn’t all that great.

I rarely got new clothes. Hand-me-downs from my older sister had to do, whether I liked them or not—and just about everything needed hemmed or taken in.

Then there was the keep-her-close-to-home syndrome my parents seemed to suffer from. Neither my brother nor my sister were rebellious in the sixties way, but, for some reason, my parents kept me close to home—and that included not wanting me to get a part-time job. A little pocket money would have improved my practically nonexistent social life, but my parents told me my job was “to be a good student” and “help your mother around the house.”

I obeyed on both counts. I made the honor roll every grading period and cleaned the house every week during the summer months. One time, wanting something different, I rearranged my bedroom furniture, now that I had the room all to myself, then spent the evening at a friend’s house. When I returned, the room was back the way it had been.

Then there was the financial situation. I’d been selected to be a band majorette for my junior year, and that meant money for boots, tassels, a new baton, band jacket, and a brand new uniform—and occasionally a soft drink after practice. My parents were still struggling from my father’s layoff years earlier. Knowing it was hard for them to come up with the extra cash, I got a part-time job at the school library for the summer months. It was one of those underprivileged student jobs through the local government.

My first day was heaven. I loved the work—I mean, here I was, an avid reader, working in a library. And I loved feeling useful, doing something to contribute to the family finances.

But when I got home, my mother told me that I wouldn’t be going to work the next day—or any day.

“There was a mistake,” she said.

Once again, I obeyed, but when I landed my first teaching job years later, I seized the reins of my life. And have struggled with relinquishing them ever since—even to God. Even though I know His way is best and He’s not a control freak like my mother was.

The kind of control my mother exerted led to frustration, disappointment, heartache, and rebellion.

But the kind of control that God, through His Holy Spirit, exerts leads to only good things—such as joy, peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment.

Isn’t that what we all hunger for?

Dear God, when I fight You for my way, remind me that Your way leads to all I’m searching for, all I desire. Break the control freak in me. Amen.

Read and reflect on John 15:1–8; 14:16–17, 26; 16:13

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.