Recently my husband, Dennis, went on a hunting trip with our son, and I decided to make the days alone ones of rest and refreshment with activities that were fun and gave me joy. In my Bible study lessons this fall we’ve talked about how the source of joy is found in relationship with God Himself. His love and personal presence brings joy. As Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
What other relationships bring me joy? was my next thought. In an instant I decided one of my “chasing joy” activities would be driving to spend time with two little joy givers: My grandchildren Lincoln and baby Emma Cate!
On the day I left my dear friend Joanne sent me a devotion she had written for the MOPS group she leads in her church. As I read it I knew God was speaking to me, confirming His leading and His work in my heart. In this hard year of 2020 we are all learning important life lessons, one of which is how to find joy in the middle of hard. Listen to what my friend shared:
by Joanne Thompson
“Do we or don’t we?” That question danced around the edges of my mind for weeks. I so wanted to celebrate our grandson Noah’s High School graduation in Texas. Though we knew attending the ceremony wasn’t an option (restricted tickets because of Covid ), my compelling desire was to be with the family. So YES, I pushed through my fears to make reservations.
Our daughter’s white Suburban pulled up to the airport’s arrival lane with only seven-year-old Ellie. (So typical! Teenagers are done with airport trips for grandparents.) I scooted close to Ellie in the back seat and with the sweetest dimpled grin she said, “This is so much better than Facetime!” Oh, that girl’s words melted my heart! Not only was she revealing her desire. (She wanted me!) She was describing my desire for that deep joy of face-to-face time together.
All image-bearers (from little girls to grandmas) crave the connection of the joyful presence of another. For sure, I was chasing joy when I got on that airplane.
Our faith walk with Jesus is a path that leads to outrageous joy in the presence of Christ, eternally! Though our 2020 world is filled with trials and struggles, Jesus clearly doesn’t want us to be devoid of joy now. He isn’t asking us to hold our breath ‘til heaven! But we need to pay attention to the path that provides that here-and-now-joy. Listen to Jesus: “I have told you these things so that MY JOY maybe in you and YOUR JOY may be complete.” What are these things?
The “these things” Jesus refers to is REMAINING in his LOVE. Jesus talks about it over and over. (Read John 15.) The LORD’S divine design goes like this: His love produces our joy. Our job is one thing: REMAIN! In the midst of frustration, fatigue, fear and anger that storm our hearts, we need to choose mindfulness that there is more love coming our way today from Jesus. Look for it. Receive it. Remain in it. Choose this practice daily. But how? Here is where Jesus goes “counter-cultural” with the world’s thinking.
He said, “If you obey my commands, you remain in my love.”
Don’t let the enemy deceive you into thinking that obeying Jesus is dutiful drudgery with no reward.
Don’t let the enemy accuse you with inevitable daily failures.
Reframe each day with wisdom: Obeying Jesus is chasing joy! The “have to” transforms into a “want to” as we learn to respond to the faithful, whispered prompts of the Holy Spirit. My prayer for all of us is that as we pay attention to those “little prompts” we will notice our joy grow.
As the Psalmist wrote: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free” (Psalm 119:32).
In this year of hard we are entering into a season of thanksgiving which is a great opportunity to practice what Joanne wrote: “Obeying Jesus is chasing joy!”
A very simple verse to memorize, “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), is a practical way to obey Jesus every day. Giving thanks isn’t optional but I often live as if it only applies with circumstances that are good and happy. God especially wants me to give thanks when life is hard because it turns my heart to His, acknowledging His loving rule of my life and returns my heart to peace, rest and ultimately joy.
Make this season of gratitude an intentional focus for yourself and your family … daily … even hourly, and watch your joy increase as you obey His command to give thanks in all things!