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Joy

In a culture riddled with the indoctrination that you should do what makes you happy, feels good, and brings you satisfaction, it’s hard to find the truth of what real joy really is. We spend thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and tons of energy on finding the secret to happiness.
A few years ago I felt the urge to study on the topic. Little did I know that I was only six months away from my joy being taken from me, or so it would seem. You see, it was in December of 2013 that I began to embark on the quest for joy. Looking back I find it humbling how much God was preparing me for the deep questions in my heart that would be coming. The whys and buts that would daily hang on my heart once Molly was diagnosed.
I began a list.
My questions at the top of my journal were:
Are we always supposed to have joy?
Where/how do we get it and keep it? 
Are there promises associated with joy in the Bible?

I desperately wanted these answers, because despite the healthy and yes, often times hot  marriage I was in with my best friend, despite getting to raise three crazy fun and exciting girls, despite having all the necessities of life, and so many more extras, I found often I was lacking joy. I was empty of happiness, though nothing was obviously keeping me from it.

Though we all go through bouts of sadness due to events, circumstances, and even people who suck the joy right out of us, it’s good to know where our source of joy should really come from. That’s where I have been recently. Discouraged by an ailment that I had no control over, I began to sink into an ugly hole. I hopped on over to my journals from years past and looked up my joy study. It refreshed me, encouraged me, and gave me so much hope..

What is joy, anyway?

I have this blissful memory from childhood that I have held dear for years. Very few memories are vivid in my mind. Everything usually is gray and blurry. But this memory is one of the few that is so clear that I remember the cold air coming in and out of my lungs, the smell of the snow, the color of the red sled in one hand, the green hose in the other, and the feeling of the crusted snot around my nose.
It was winter and my brother and I were in the back yard setting up the most wicked awesome sledding system in history. We had a huge hill in the backyard that steeply descended until you ended up at a wooden fence at the bottom. At the top of the hill, we packed up a high pile of snow and then proceeded to etch out a path down the hill with the sled. To finish it off, we took the garden hose and let the water run down our make-shift track. As the water ran down, it froze quickly and honestly, looked so pretty.

We were pumped. 

Being the good older brother that he was, J let me go first. Of course, I am sure the possibility of breaking a bone, slashing a leg, or receiving a head wound had nothing to do with his decision. (OK, now that I think of it, I am pretty sure I was the guinea pig for way too many crazy ideas he had. Maybe that’s why he has never broken a bone or gotten stitches and I, well, have.)
I stepped on top of that homemade ramp, placed the fire truck red sled on top, jumped on, and flew down the hill. As fast as it started, it was over. I went so quick down that hill that I was most certain  there were sparks streaming behind me. Thankfully, the wooden fence was there to stop me from ending up in the next county.

I hit hard. And I am pretty sure more than my well-being, my brother was terrified of the repercussions that would take place if I was hurt. He ran up to me with fear in his eyes. But then he heard me laugh. More than laugh. I was hooting, hollering, giggling, and just full of life. It was the best sled ride I ever had, and even though I did it again and again that day, that first ride could never be beat.
This was joy.
Or at least according to the Webster dictionary. Pure delight, keen pleasure, and superb happiness.
I think this is why we constantly get confused and frustrated with the idea of joy.
Though Webster was a most intelligent man and I really don’t know how he did what he did, we have to look deeper than the good old dictionary to find the true definition.
When the word joy pops up in the Bible, there are so many reasons people had it.
People had joy when God’s Word was received in their hearts.
When the disciples heard that Christ was no longer in the grave: joy.
Zechariah had joy at the news of John the Baptist’s conception.
After worship there was joy.
When someone is saved, there is joy.
Abiding in God brings joy.
Honestly, my list is so long. I looked up every single time the word joy was used.
Here’s the condensed version.

You have joy when:
1. You see God working and have answered prayer. 
2. When the Gospel is received.
3. When you inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
4. When you hear and receive God’s teaching.
5. With worship.

6.When you abide in Him.
7. When you do His work.
8. Even in tribulations, there is joy.

Here’s my challenge to you this week. 
I went down this list and asked myself which one of these I had experienced. Which have you lived and seen? Which have you known?
I found this an excellent starting point in really getting down to the real question: Where does my joy come from?
I know that I personally have learned that my joy comes from many different reasons, but One True Source.

Posted March 20, 2017

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