The things which often bring a smile to my face are small. Ansley’s silly imaginary friends. When Maggie bursts out a big laugh. Alastair’s witty, sometimes enjoyably snarky, remarks. A piece of chocolate. Soft blankets. They are simple and sweet, and definitely cheesy – a little like the song “These are a few of my favourite things”.
But they are part of my life’s joy. The people. The pleasures. Gifts and serendipities and answered prayers.
And I think I often miss them.
Celebrating Easter and 50 Days of Joy seems to require discipline in my life. I tend to buzz my way through the day noticing dirty dishes, the random sock left in the hallway, the collected piles to take upstairs and downstairs, all while simultaneously attempting to keep my two little ones from knocking me over. Bouncing between the office and home and bed, I am more easily drawn into the idea of what needs to be done than into the resting peace of what has already been accomplished.
I think it would be easier for me to make a list of all the things that rob me of joy rather than making a list of things that bring me joy. And the fact of this would be on my list.
I have heard finding joy requires something of us. It requires a steadying of my thoughts. It requires a slowing of my buzzing. It requires surrendering the to-dos. It requires a larger perspective. It even requires accepting some of the brokenness in me or the world around me.
Peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
These requirements are a lot. They are even a burden in some instances. Have you ever successfully been patient when both a 3-year-old and 1 year old decide to lose their poop at the exact same moment? (Sometimes this isn’t even a metaphor!) Have you ever tried gentleness when your spouse endearingly pushes your buttons and it’s already been a long day? How about pulling off some peace when the day comes to an end but you still have 13 things that need to get done ASAP?
Finding a state in which I can welcome and receive the joys of my life is a challenge. There are thousands of books, websites, blogs, retreat centres, yoga studios, and meditation gurus who collect a pretty penny in teaching and training human beings how to achieve these stress-free states of Zen. I think you might agree, it is not a natural state for the average North American.
All you bible whiz kids may have clued in already, but peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control aren’t random words I chose to describe this Zen state of being. They belong in a grouping of words that the Apostle Paul describes as the ‘fruit of the Holy Spirit’.
Joy is an active reality within the living God. It is a byproduct of his being.
It sounds a little odd to describe these things as fruit, but we aren’t talking apricots and bananas. Paul tells us when we come to know Jesus as King of all, and when we allow him to enter our life, he gives us a gift. The gift is his presence, his actual Spirit, or the Holy Spirit. And he brings with him some fruit, some produce, payoff, yields, upshots.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;” Galatians 5:22
According to scripture, joy is not a reward based on the discipline of being Zen. Joy is not “becoming aware of the present moment”. Joy is not something we work to attain by “de-stressing”. Joy is not just some kind of “carefree abandon”. Joy is not even “treasuring” the people around you. Joy is not a list of our favourite things.
Joy is a gift. Joy comes in a pretty package with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control all hand delivered by the Holy Spirit. When we feel/experience joy, isn’t it usually a mix of all these good feelings/ experiences? Joy is an active reality within the living God. It is a byproduct of his being. Like the sun produces light, so the Holy Spirit produces joy. Like the ocean rolling with waves, so the Spirit moves in joy.
God is eager to share his fruit with us, and part of that fruit is joy. He makes it available to us in His Spirit. This is Easter Joy. God giving us something we could never give ourselves. God making joy real in us, something I can’t do without him. He is a God of joy and he gives that to us.
All this to say, I do not think there is a trick to getting more joy or being more joyful or finding secret joys. I don’t think God is expecting humanity to solve the puzzle and start producing joy internally. He isn’t outsourcing its production. To expect myself to muster up joy is a little like expecting rays of sunshine to burst forth from my ears.
God also isn’t relying on us to “get there” on our own. He doesn’t expect us to get to some state of tranquility or acceptance so we can enjoy joy.
What a relief. When the world seems to be screaming at me from a thousand directions “find your happiness here” or “use my method for getting in touch with joy” or “make your life better so you feel better” it is refreshing to know it is not really up to me and my abilities or skills. Nor does it rely on my life’s circumstances. Joy is available to us anytime and in abundance. His Spirit draws us, allures us into his joyful presence- even in the craziest moments of our day. His Spirit pokes his head through our clouds with little rays of joy. The Holy Spirit reminds us of happy memories. His Spirit plants scripture verses of hope and good promises. We can’t manipulate God or work the system to get more gifts. It is a constant reality in Him. Now, thanks be to Christ, through the work of his Holy Spirit, it is given to us.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
Do you see what the Lord has done?