Our world is a pretty sad place. Everything’s broken, and brokenness is always sad, whether it’s something small or something big in our lives. But I have met people who have every right to be unhappy and miserable yet somehow they are more cheerful than people who have everything. How is that?
Well, if you’re a Christ follower and you have the Holy Spirit inside you, you have access to a power you can draw on at any time that will help you make it through a day or a week or a month or a year with a cheerful heart. That power is joy.
Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
But what is joy? Is it just happiness? Is it healthy thinking? Is it a choice? We talk about joy a lot. We say we’re joyful or that we’ve lost our joy or that someone is joyous, but what does it actually mean?
This month I’m doing a study of the Fruit of the Spirit because part of living a life that is led by the Spirit is demonstrating these qualities. I want God’s Spirit to be a part of my life every moment and not just in the times when I don’t know what to do.
From what I understand, the word joy itself that is used in the Bible is the same as happiness. The difference is that many times happiness is something that can be taken away because it’s based on circumstances, but joy is a gift that God gives to people who believe in Him. So that gift doesn’t depend on our circumstances. It depends on the person who gave it, and since we can always trust God, we can always have joy.
But what it comes down to this morning is that joy is a response. No matter what happens in our lives, joy is how we are supposed to answer. Whether we have everything we want or just the things we need or maybe not even that much, we are supposed to respond to life with joy.
Joy is happiness. It is healthy thinking. It’s all of those definitions and more.
The fact that this kind of joy is a Fruit of the Spirit means that it will take some time to cultivate. The difficult part about this kind of joy is that it isn’t readily apparent until you truly begin struggling. If you haven’t had difficulties in your life, I’m not sure you know what this kind of joy is like because you have to know sorrow before you can understand what it’s like to know joy.
When I was younger, I thought I understood, but then I thought I understood a lot when I was young. But when you begin to live and when you truly understand how broken our world is, life is full of sorrow. I don’t know how God stands it. My heart breaks for this world and all the evil things we do.
People hurt each other. We tear down our own lives. We crush dreams. We interfere. Families are falling apart. Life is no longer precious, and what once was bad is now good. Heroes are snubbed and villains are exalted. Everything is backward. Everything is broken. And even where life is supposed to work, there is still dysfunction and sadness and sickness.
But in the midst of all of it, no matter what situation you’re in, you have the power to choose joy. Joy is a response to what God is doing, to what He’s saying, to what you’re learning, to what you’re experiencing. Whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s happy or sorrowful, whatever the situation if you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you can choose to respond to your circumstances with joy. And once you choose to respond with joy, life looks different.
Oh, everything is still broken. That won’t change. But once you choose to respond to that brokenness with God’s joy, your whole perspective shifts because you will understand that the things that matter are still intact. God isn’t broken. The Bible isn’t broken. And while our relationship with Him probably doesn’t look like what it should most of the time, He is still in control and He knows what He’s doing and if we let Him do what He does best, He’ll take the broken pieces of our lives and our dreams and put them together again in a way that accomplishes something awesome.
Granted, we may never see the outcome of the difficult moments in our lives, at least not in a physical way. But what we’ll experience goes beyond mere happiness. Real joy comes from peace and confidence and trust and unwavering knowledge that everything is going to be okay. And once you grasp that, you can respond to anything with a cheerful heart.
If you have the Holy Spirit, you have joy. So what are facing today? Frustrations at work? Frustrations at home? Frustrations in general? All of the above? No matter what you’re facing, you can choose to have joy. Just ask for it and remember that you’re not facing life alone. If you have the Holy Spirit, God is walking through life at your side.
So smile. The world may be broken, but if you belong to Christ, you’re not.