Fruits of the Spirit: Joy
When I picture joy, I picture someone jumping and dancing, unable to contain themselves with happiness –totally exuberant and delighted. Although I do have these moments, I’m afraid I can’t say that this is how I live my life. All too often, stresses of exams, coursework, friendships or even just the day-to-day busyness that life often is, can leave me joyless. I don’t mean unhappy or miserable, but simply not massively excited, enthused or ecstatic. So – what is meant by the fruit of ‘joy’, and how can we get a hold of this?
The Bible often speaks of joy – a joy that comes from knowing and loving Jesus. 1 Peter 1:8 speaks of this when Peter writes:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
Our joy comes from Jesus – we can be filled with an amazing joy when we grasp just what he has done for us. When we truly understand our sin and how awful it is, and truly understand our Saviour and how incredible he is, then there is nothing for us to do but be filled with thankfulness and joy at what is in store for us. In knowing Jesus, we can experience this joy in every situation:
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the sheepfold and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
In each of these circumstances, the natural reaction is not joy. When things go wrong, and when we face ‘trials’, we so often become weary and despondent – perhaps getting angry, or giving up on God altogether. But Nehemiah shows us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
This means that whether our circumstances are amazing or awful; whatever we’re going through, we can be strong, because of the joy that we have in Jesus. This joy comes from the knowledge that Jesus is our king – that he died and rose again for us, and that he has adopted us as his children, so that no matter what life might feel like, we trust in God’s plan, and in God’s great love for us.
We must remember that the fruit of the Spirit is exactly that: of the Spirit! And so we don’t need to try and muster up this joy on our own, or pretend that we’re happy when we feel anything but. This life can often be really hard, and the bible doesn’t shy away from that. So not feeling joy doesn’t mean that you don’t love Jesus, or know what he has done for you. But it might mean that our priorities aren’t right.
Are you putting too much stress on those grades, that university offer, that job or that relationship? If we do this, then our joy will fluctuate on how well we’re maintaining those things. Instead, we need to turn to God: put him as the King of our lives, and ask him to move us to joy for all that he has done.
Pray! Turn to God in all things, and turn back to him constantly. Make him king of your life, and surrender your own desires for his plans.
It can be helpful to tie a ribbon on to your toothbrush or bike handle as ‘prayer reminders’, or set reminders on your phone to prompt you into action!
Try to find a Christian friend to help one another in this. Ask them to point out when you are joyless instead of joyful, so that you can see which areas of your life you are most worried about. Then try to give these up to God, again and again, asking him to give you his joy in all circumstances, joy which isn’t dependent on any earthly thing.
Lucy is at Sixth Form in Cambridge. She is a fan of books, chocolate brownies and trashy TV. She is part of Christ Church Cambridge, where she loves being able to meet with others to learn more about Jesus.