The Strength of Joy
What is Joy?
In the Greek, the word is xairo, which is a cognate based on the word, “xaris,” which is the word for grace. Grace is God’s “favorable leaning toward” us to deal with us in His kindness and goodness. It's not something we can ear or deserve; rather, it is a free gift of God to us based on Christ's death. “Xairo,” then, means to be glad and delight in God’s favor and goodness that we never earned or deserved.
I like to think of it this way:
Joy is a beautiful mystery. It co-exists with painful sorrow. In fact, present sorrow is the basis for joy because it is only through present work that we obtain future reward.
Some Christians believe that joy is not happiness: that joy is only a mental or spiritual decision. I think that perhaps they believe this because the circumstances in which we are called to be joyful are so grief inducing. It is the idea that we can only experience one emotion at a time.
There are other Christians who say you should only feel happy because of what Jesus has done. That any other sad emotion would be a lack of character, a wrong attitude, a lack of Christ-likeness. Conversely, there are Christians who believe that, as Christ was the Man of Sorrows, so we should be sorrowful. This is the mystery!
While Joy is a decision, we can sometimes be mistaken in the idea that we cannot be both happy about what will come and simultaneously sad about the painful and present circumstances which bring the good benefit. But because God created us to be like Him, He has created us with the ability to experience multiple emotions at the same time. Paul said that he himself was “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing!” (2 Cor. 6:10)
I don’t enjoy being pregnant. I don’t enjoy the joint pain, the morning sickness, the heartburn, the weight gain, the constant fatigue, and the painful labor. I don’t enjoy the insomnia before the birth, or the waking up constantly after. I didn’t enjoy the c-section, or the ear-splitting newborn cries through the long nights. I didn’t enjoy the process of healing.
But I can tell you this: after having six biological children, I can’t help but smile with absolute delight when I get a positive pregnancy test! I can’t help but get a rush of happy adrenaline when I feel that first contraction hit. For me, the prospect of having a child for the rest of eternity, whether through miscarriage or a live birth, far outweighs the pain and suffering of the pregnancy, birth, and child-raising that is to come. It is a joy that cannot be taken away.
It is HOPE that enables us to have this happy joy. Paul stated that we are to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction” (Rom. 12:12a). He reminded us that “we do not sorrow as others do, who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Though we experience every bit of pain and suffering that our counterparts in the world experience, even our sorrow is not the same as the world’s. We know it isn’t the end. We know that these painful circumstances produce immeasurable good in our lives (Rom. 8:28).
We are in the long process of a kitchen remodel due to the Beatchie Creek fires. Severely limited in our budget, it is still very much in the beginning stages, though it has been nine months.
In my mind’s eye, I have envisioned many times what it will look like, down to every detail. I imagine what I will do in that kitchen. Vases of wildflowers from the hill. Morning coffees with Jeff. Cooking with my son, Cyrus. Family gathered. Laughter. Relationships formed and maintained. An oasis for the weary. A place where the word of God is shared. A place of hope, light, rest, and refreshing.
What does fixing my thoughts in joy on the finish do?
When I know that this trial, this season, is producing a wonderful thing for me and for those I care about, it produces the strength to continue to complete each part of the task in front of me.
As we work through our remodel, there are many small and large tasks to complete. It can feel overwhelming if I sink into the them. Each day there is another small piece to finish. Each task really represents a multitude of smaller tasks.
I was talking about this with my mom (if I’m honest, it probably sounded more like complaining. 😉 ) and she gently reminded me that this would not be for the rest of my life. In the scheme of things, a year spent in remodeling would be followed by many years of enjoyment. She reminded me to keep putting my perspective on the hope of the end result, not on the present.
That perspective, though only an earthly and shallow one—it's just a kitchen—helps me to get up each day and work a little more on its completion.
Focusing on the hope at the end gives us the strength to work a little more with Jesus every day until the completion of our life.
Friends, this life is momentary. It is fleeting. From the perspective of eternity, life's timeline doesn’t even make it on the page. We need to look “unto Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2).
Looking away from all else to the joy of the Lord produces a happiness that cannot be mitigated or reduced by our present circumstances.
...............Read the previous blog in the Fruit of the Spirit Series: "The Harvest of Love"
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.