Well, it hasn’t exactly been 31 blog posts, but it has been 31 days of studying and memorizing and reading and meditating on Scripture related to joy. And it’s been good. So to conclude, a few lessons I have been learning through this process:
1. The command to rejoice is a reasonable one.
When Paul admonishes us to rejoice always in 1 Thessalonians 5, it may seem a little unreasonable. People are suffering. Bad stuff keeps happening. The future seems unknown. And yet, he tells us, God’s will for you is this: rejoice always. One might say he was being a little insensitive. Same with James, when he exhorts his readers to consider it joy when they face trials of various kinds. Joy!? The nerve!
But I’ve become convinced that this was a reasonable request. Why? Because we have God! We have grace! We have hope in an eternal glory that far surpasses any suffering we could experience on this earth. Of course we can rejoice!
2. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.
Not the fruit of sleep, not the fruit of a well-thought-out plan. To have true, relentless joy is to choose to walk in step with the Spirit, to allow Him to bring the grace we need in each and every moment, regardless of how little we’ve slept or how obnoxious our kids are or how chaotic our life may be or what time of the month it is. This has been a deeply convicting reality for me, but also a liberating one.
I can have joy even if my flesh is telling me I’m grumpy because I didn’t sleep last night. I can have joy even if my hormones are raging and I just want to sit on the couch in sweatpants eating cookie dough fluctuating between screaming and crying (what, you don’t do that? Overshare?). I can have joy even when my baby is screaming and my five-year-old is talking incessantly over the screaming and a timer is ringing and something somewhere is definitely burning. Because joy is the fruit of the Spirit’s work in my heart. Even when dinner is burnt and the day is a fail and I can’t remember what I was supposed to be doing, I can cling to the Spirit with all my might and laugh, because God’s grace is sufficient even for the chaos that is our daily 5pm.
Don’t get me wrong – this month has by no means been a roaring success, but the realization that I can choose joy even then means there is room to grow. There is hope! Because God’s will is also this: my sanctification. And as He shapes me by His Spirit, I pray the fruit will be obvious, especially to the little people who so often fall under my sinful wrath.
3. Prayer and joy are unquestionably connected.
I should probably through gratitude in there too and we’ll just end up right where we started.
One tangible area God has grown me this month is in the area of prayer. It turns out that when you’re trying to deal with something you really really suck at, God has this way of literally bringing you to your knees. I was convicted that I was rushing through prayer in order to get to other things in the morning, so I decided to allow myself to pray, even if that was the only thing I did. And as I spent that time in the morning, I found myself doing it more and more throughout the day, occasionally catching myself about to snap, hiding in the bathroom for a few minutes to prayerfully collect myself, talking to Jesus out loud (and undoubtedly looking like a crazy person) while driving down the road. It’s been so sweet. His presence His real. His grace sufficient. He is faithful, and He brings the joy. It’s His, not mine, and He is so sweet and eager to share. I think, at least in part, to pray without ceasing is to abide in Christ’s love – to find the grace to keep His commandments – that His joy may be in us and that our joy may be full (John 15).
That was a major verbal process. Raw and unfiltered I guess. And this is just a small piece of what this month has entailed. I wish I could convey all that I’ve learned while also confessing my continual failures. But instead, we’ll go with a quick and unedited conclusion.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)