I became an insta-mom to three daughters (6, 8, and 10) when I married my husband. Talk about a crash course in parenting! I learned very quickly that kids listen to what you say and they hold you to it! They certainly don’t let you get away with saying, “Sure, we’ll go get frozen yogurt after school” and not follow through. If we didn’t make that much anticipated stop to get their favorite treat, “You promised!” would ring out in unison from the back seat. As a parent, I want my children to trust me. I want to be true to my word, even if it means that delivering on the promise requires a waiting period.
We sing about it, read it in scripture, and hear preachers declare it – God is faithful. He is a promise keeper. But there is a catch, one that isn’t talked about much. It has nothing to do with the Lord and everything to do with us. God is indeed faithful, he keeps his promises but we must take him at his word and grab hold of his blessing. One of my favorite promises in scripture is Proverbs 16:23, “Those who trust the Lord will be joyful.”
The good news was trumpeted at the birth of Jesus. He brings great joy to all people. Not just some. Not only for those who have certain dispositions or those without a care in the world. Jesus brings joy to all. It’s up to us to receive it. Joy is a promise from the Lord and a direct result in placing our trust in Jesus.
Joy has been pushed aside, marginalized, and even dishonored. There are some who believe joy is silly, unnecessary and even unwelcome in the life of a Christ follower. But like C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” It’s not a throw away fruit. It’s listed second, right between love and peace in the well known list of spiritual fruit in Galatians 5. It is imperative to a life with Christ and a marker of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The reason joy hasn’t been received or embraced by so many is because it is widely misunderstood. Joy is not just a feeling, although it is often deeply felt. Joy is not just bright and energetic, it can be deep, peaceful, and secure. Joy is buoyant and steady, it withstands life’s circumstances. Joy is not happiness but they are cousins and often show up together, however joy can be present in the most painful and difficult of times. Often it is assumed that the opposite of joy is sadness or depression, but that’s not the case. The opposite of joy is fear.
The Lord has given us such a powerful gift in joy but if we don’t understand what it is we can’t fully appreciate it. I want all the Lord has for me so in order to receive this gift I found the need to attempt to define it. After a disappointing search for a definition that rang true to my experience I offer my own,
A buoyant sense of well-being because of th e person and work of Jesus Christ, cultivated by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and because of the love of the Father.
And to break it down even more, joy is Jesus. He is our joy. I often say my joy never changes because my Jesus never changes. He is present in every circumstance and he brings freedom and victory. When you see the words, “choose joy” on a sign, mug, shirt, or bookmark, what it’s really saying is lock eyes with Jesus. Choose to place your trust in him and he will bring you joy.
If I take my daughters to get frozen yogurt and they load up their cups to the brim but never eat it, they aren’t getting the fullness of the promise, the one I made good on. They can look at it, even touch it, but if they don’t eat it they are missing out. The Lord has given us something so wonderful and powerful. The joy of the Lord is an incredible gift and for far too long his children have not indulged. They have treated it as the optional cherry on the top of the sundae of the gospel, when in fact it’s the banana in the banana split! There isn’t anything optional about joy. If there is no joy in the good news, it’s not the gospel! The Lord has made good on his promise, so eat up and be filled with joy!