“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ” -Galatians 5:22,23 NIV
Simply defined, Joy is taking pleasure or delight in someone or something. It is not conditioned upon the object or person but rather relies upon the one who experiences the joy. For example; one person may find joy in a beautiful sunrise while another sees it only as a glaring ball of light. In other words, we choose joy.
The story is told of twin brothers; one a pessimist and one an optimist. One day their father decided to conduct an experiment. For their birthday he purchased the pessimist a room full of toys of every size and variety. And for his optimist son he gave him a room full of horse manure. He thought to himself; “surely these presents will make my pessimistic son happy and my optimistic son unhappy” He then led his pessimistic son into the room full of toys and this son quickly tore into them. When he was through he sat on the floor crying because none of the presents were good enough. He then took his optimistic son to the room full of horse manure and told him “here’s your present son”. The little boy gleefully jumped into the middle of the pile of manure and began tossing it about with screams of delight. The father was dumbfounded and asked why he was so joyful. The boy replied “with all this horse manure there is sure to be a pony in here somewhere!”
A person who cultivates a heart of joy will always find something to delight in. Whereas a person who is focusing upon the negative will usually miss the beauty that is right in front of them. You can give a great gift to your child by helping them develop the ability to take delight in the ordinary, mundane and commonplace because there is no such thing for someone who is able to find the “pony” in the midst of a manure pile. As a parent you need to lead the charge in this area. If you do not take delight in the world around you then you will send that message to your children and they too will expect their lives to be joyless. When was the last time you stood with your child and delighted in the song of a bird? When did you last point out to them as especially beautiful sky? Is your life characterized by reveling in the beauty all about you? Your child is watching the way you approach life and will consider joylessness as normal if that is your example. With all the wonders God has put about us wouldn’t that be a shame!
But let me turn the corner and talk about ultimate joy, for even though joy is something we must choose every day all joy is not the same. Joy can increase by infinite proportions if the object of our joy is its self infinite. And God alone is infinite.
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. ” -John 16:22 NIV
We can certainly understand Jesus’ reference to grief. The disciples would soon lose him. He would be taken away by the authorities, put through the sham of a trial and then nailed to a cross and killed. But what is this about them receiving joy that “no one will take away?” Scripture and tradition tell us that all the disciples except John died martyr’s deaths. They experienced deprivation, humiliation and much persecution, so clearly their joy was not based upon their circumstances. It must have been grounded in something far deeper than their external condition. The joy Jesus was speaking about was their new relationship with God that would come about by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This joy was something even privation, starvation and death could not steal.
When I was entering college I attended an international student conference where I heard many wonderful speakers. But there was one that moved me deeply and his words continue to impact me to this day. He was a man in his mid-fifties and he was rolled out onto the stage in a wheelchair because he was severely crippled with rheumatoid arthritis; and is the passage he spoke on.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” -Psalm 16:11 NIV
It was an address like none other I had ever heard. Here was a man who was in the prime of his life, unable to move without intense pain and he was talking about joy? But it wasn't his words that made such an impact on my soul it was the way he spoke. He was really joyful! His awful disease could not take away his joy because it could not take away the presence of the Lord in his life. When Jesus said that no one could take away our joy he meant no person, place, or thing because our joy comes from the living presence of God indwelling in us through the Holy Spirit.
Do you want your children to walk with the Lord? Do you want them to find their ultimate source of joy in the unfailing goodness of God and not be pushed here and there by the tides of their emotions and circumstances? Then you need to find this for yourself and live a joy filled life in front of them. This is how they will catch it, when they see it in you. How does this happen? By delving deeply into the wonderful grace of God that sees you just as you are and loves you with a powerful, everlasting love. Fix your eyes and thoughts upon the person of Jesus by continually marveling at a love so deep that he would sacrifice himself to have you be with him forever. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to fill and empower you with his joy that cannot be taken away by trials, suffering or rejection. Remember, joy is a choice and the more you choose it the more your life will be characterized by an uplifting, radiant view of the world. Become a wonderful gift to your family and the world; choose joy.