Our small group chose Fruit of the Spirit for our current study. The challenge; we each had to take a turn to prepare. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were scribbled onto strips of paper and appropriately placed in a basket. We all picked one, nervous, in good humour, that we would pick exactly what God wanted to show in us!
I picked Joy. Something that has been coming up over and over again, through scripture, books I have read as well as God showing me in my own life.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Joy (noun) the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure, elation. A state of happiness.
Joy (verb) to feel joy; be glad; rejoice
Antonyms for joy; misery, unhappiness, sorrow, grief.
How do we have joy when we are in the midst of grief, pain, suffering, disappointment, hardship, even persecution?
There is a difference between worldly joy and spiritual joy. Worldly joy would require our circumstances to be good, for us to feel joy. Spiritual joy, is a feeling of joy received from/in Christ regardless of our circumstances.
Joy is an emotion/feeling as opposed to an idea that we can just choose. Faith, is something that we choose, regardless of how we feel or whether we understand.
Can we choose joy? Or is it that we make the choice to ask God to fill us with joy, regardless of our circumstance? That our joy will be in HIM.
Last year I read 1000 Gifts – a dare to live fully, right where you are, by Ann Voskamp. In this book, Voskamp shares how joy comes/is given to us, when we give thanks to God, in all things. She speaks of eucharisteo, a Greek word meaning to give thanks/thanksgiving.
Eucharisteo – thanksgiving
Charis – grace
Chara – joy
In a difficult period of her life, Voskamp was encouraged to write a list of 1000 things she was thankful for. Her list started, sitting in her home:
- Morning shadows across old floorboards
- Jam piled high on the toast
- Cry of blue jay from high in the spruce
- Pink skin of newborn pigs
- Forgiveness of a sister.
“If all these were gifts that God gives – then wasn’t my writing down the list like receiving. Like taking with thanks” Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts
“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given; joy” Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
She writes about the practice of giving thanks. We don’t have to change what we see, only the way we see.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13
The challenge; what do we view as gifts? We can be so focused on the big things; the job, the car, the house, the bank balance, the healing. But what about the thousands of gifts God gives us each day, that we have not opened our eyes to see.
It takes practice; to stop, and to see, to smell or even to remember. Right now, in this moment;
Hot tea, technology, smell of the lawn being mowed, our adoption journey, the emotional healing through my last miscarriage, learning to slow down.
I actually wrote this a few weeks ago. Since then, two families in our small group have experienced tragic loss; one family lost their one month old baby and the other, their 15 year old son.
Right now, I am thankful for community, for brave vulnerability, for lessons in lament, for the peace that surpasses all understanding, that only our God can give us.
Have you read 1000 gifts? How did it impact you? Have you experienced joy amidst suffering, through practising gratitude?