In my walk this morning, I was praying for God to increase the joy in my life and the joy in my family. I started asking the Lord what some of the things are that will release joy in our lives. (After all, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit already living inside of us.)
God showed me four things. I am sure there are more, but these are the ones He showed me during my time with Him on my walk.
- Child-like faith
Let’s start with obedience. When you know you are guilty of doing something wrong, you cannot have joy. That includes not doing something you know God has told you to do. Disobedience brings guilt. Guilt brings condemnation. The Holy Spirit does not bring condemnation (He brings conviction) but guilt does. When we are feeling guilty, joy is going to be missing from our lives. This seems pretty obvious here in black-and-white, but not so much in our day-to-day living. When we repent and receive forgiveness, that guilt is washed away. When we are in obedience, there is a fullness of joy that comes with it. Our conscious is clean before God, and that lightness in our hearts has a natural result of joy.
How about child-like faith? Well, fear is the opposite of faith. And yet they both come from the same root emotion – how we feel about the unknown. It is a choice in our perspective. We choose whether we are going to have fear or faith in what we cannot see. Fear brings torment. If we are walking in fear and playing out all the scenarios in our minds about what might, or can, or probably will go wrong, then obviously we do not have joy in our hearts. Fear, anxiety, and worry not only brings mental anguish, but also brings health issues into our lives. We need to remind ourselves that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
As believers in the Risen Christ, we are to walk by faith, and not by sight. When we choose fear, we cannot have the fruit of joy operating in our lives. If we are walking in faith, child-like faith that our Daddy is taking care of us and taking care of what we can’t see, no matter how bad the situation is, we will be in freedom and joy. I am handing it all over to Him, and releasing it to Him, which means it is no longer my burden, and it is up to Him to take care of and fix. Child-like faith doesn’t mean I am going to get my way. It means Hs is going to do what is right in the big picture, and believe me when I say I know first-hand how extremely painful that can be at times. But God has never entered a battle and come out the loser. He is always victorious, so I know that in Him, I will be victorious also, which gives me joy! It releases in me a child-like awe and wonderment. I am free to go about my life, believing things are going to be okay, which brings joy.
Let’s move on to number three, relationship. Relationships involve emotions. Yes, I know joy is not an emotion like happiness, and yet joy definitely affects our emotions. When you have a great relationship with someone, it brings joy to your very soul. Guess what? When you have a great relationship with God, it brings joy to your very soul. We all know great relationships take work. It takes a purposeful effort to spend time together, whether it is a person, or your Father in heaven, because life gets busy. So spending time in His Word to hear from Him, spending time in prayer talking to Him, and spending time in worship, which brings His very presence into our personal world, are all ways to grow in your relationship with God. And the better our relationship with God, the deeper the joy it releases in our lives.
Then there is the issue of thankfulness. We know thankfulness lifts our hearts. Many of us get so stuck in the rut of living, that we forget how blessed we are. Taking time to sit and list out the things we have to be thankful for, both in our minds and on paper, brings joy to our hears because it opens our eyes and gives us a renewed revelation of the good things God has brought into our lives. Focusing on the negative brings darkness. Focusing on the positive brings light. Light shatters the darkness and heaviness, allowing joy to break through.
I would like to share something taken from my book When Tragedy Strikes: Rebuilding Your Life With Hope and Healing After the Death of Your Child.
It is no secret the enemy works overtime to keep us from walking in joy. Why would he be so determined to steal my joy? Because God’s joy is my strength. And I don’t mean my joy in Him, I mean His joy in me. Most of us are familiar with Nehemiah 8:10, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” In the English language (hang in here with me, now) the word “of” is a preposition. If I were to say, “This view of the ocean is our favorite,” I would be referring to the ocean’s view, right? If I were to say, “The book of Kevin’s is lost,” I would be referring to Kevin’s book, right? Well, if the joy of the Lord is my strength, I see it referring to the Lord’s joy, not mine!
When the Holy Spirit first showed me this, it was a huge relief! I don’t have to manufacture or make sure I have joy (based on my love or my happiness in God) to have strength. My strength comes from knowing He is crazy in love with me! Wow! (Remember Zephaniah 3:17, how He is rejoicing over us with gladness and singing?) His joy over me is what makes me strong. His joy about me creates joy in me. Now there is a seed of hope to plant in your life for sure!
Literally right in the middle of writing this blog, there was a situation I became overwhelmed with a heaviness that brought me to tears. I had to stop and take a dose of my own medicine, and force myself to do these four things myself. I can say they really truly work!