The past few days of choosing and meditating on Scripture related to joy have been really good for me. But I’d be totally lying if I claimed that it’s been an all-out joyfest in this house all week. There has been grumping and snapping and complaining and all the usual general sinfulness. Despite believing the truth of Scripture that God is my hope – that I have been brought near to Him by the blood of Christ – that His unchanging character is a reason to rejoice – there are moments (lots of them) where I just don’t feel joyful. And two things come to mind as I reflect on this reality.
1) I may not always feel joy in God, but in faith I can tell myself He is my joy. I’m pretty sure that’s almost a direct quote from Tim Chester in You Can Change. Part of the act of meditating on Scripture is preaching the truth to my heart – reminding myself that this is the truth and that I must walk in it in repentance and faith, even when my feelings don’t corroborate the facts. I think this is a discipline and a choice we must make out of obedience, and I do believe that meditating on these truths has the potential to shape our feelings. They will follow. But we may not start there – we may just start with trust in God’s promises and be forced to take obedient steps of faith.
2) As I was praying this morning, I was hit upside the head with something else. The reason I don’t always feel joy is because I am looking for it in all the wrong places. Despite the truth I read to the contrary, I walk away and look to my husband and children and day to be my source of joy. If Jordan is grumpy, I am grumpy. If Hadley and Adrienne are fussing or disobedient, I am irritable and snappy. If my day is not going according to my plans, I believe I have a justifiable reason to respond in anger and bitterness. The Bible has a word for this: idolatry. It’s looking to anything besides God as my source of life, joy, and satisfaction. It’s wanting happy circumstances more than God. I knew I had a problem of not choosing to be joyful, but I didn’t really realize that I was chasing after idols instead. How quickly I am deceived into thinking that someone else holds the key to my satisfaction! Yet I have encountered the Living God, and so I must declare with Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
It seems like joy should be an easy choice. But my flesh is weak and my faith is small. I’m so thankful that my approval does not hinge upon my ability to live up to God’s standards, but is fully secure because of Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrificial death.
I pray that, someday, this fruit of the Spirit will be the natural overflow of my heart and not a moment-by-moment conscious choice. But that day may never come on this earth. So in the meantime, I repent constantly of my failure to believe truth and to desire God above all else, I rest in grace, and I take one step of obedience at a time, believing in faith that He will make level paths for my feet.