As I sit down to write this, it's late afternoon on November 1st. We're waiting for news on a house we love and put an offer in on, knowing that there is a second offer on the table and in all likelihood we've been outbid. I also just found out about 15 minutes ago that my Grandad is in the hospital - I'm waiting for more info to see if I need to cancel my evening plans & go say goodbye, or if I can make my way there tomorrow. Needless to say, I'm finding it somewhat ironic, yet peacefully appropriate, that my scheduled post is on Joy.
If you've been following along, I've spent the past two weeks walking through this 4 part series. The introductory post posed the question "What if love, hope, and joy are more than just feelings?", and last week I explored the concept of Hope as a choice. Today, I want to wrestle with the idea that Joy is something we choose, not something that happens to us.
I first want to start by exploring what Joy is not. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is a feeling (i.e. "I feel happy. I feel sad"). Happiness is circumstantial - you have to be in a place where you have something you want, or someone you love, etc, to feel happy. Joy, on the other hand, is something that persists regardless of circumstances. We see this vividly in the life of Paul, who speaks of having Joy in the midst of trials - and boy did he have trials: he was imprisoned, beaten, betrayed, hungry, cold, and shipwrecked, just to name a few (2 Cor 11). But he had something that allowed him to call all of those things "light and momentary afflictions" (2 Cor 4), and stated that in the midst of them he did not lose heart. Based on Paul's other writings, it's not a stretch to read "not lose heart" as "remained joyful".
Interestingly, one of the most prominent places we find Joy being spoken about in the Bible is in the book of John, as Jesus is speaking to His disciples about His upcoming death and His hopes for them as they walk through and beyond it. In John 15, Jesus ties the concept of Joy into the concept of Love (John 15:9-11), and encourages us to remain in love, and to remain in joy. To remain in something requires a choice: a choice to stay vs. a choice to leave. If we can choose, then it must be more than an emotion.
I don't have the bandwidth to explore this as completely as I'd like to here, but as we progress into John 16, Jesus seems to tie Joy into Peace, and peace into the presence of the Holy Spirit. This suggests some very encouraging things to me: 1) Joy is going to be a place of quiet rest and hopeful anticipation (aka peace), not giddy excitement like happiness. And, if that is the case, I can choose to rest, and, as we saw last week, I can choose to hope, which should enable me to choose to be joyful, and 2) It's not all up to me. During Christ's earthly ministry, He completely gave up His deity and did everything through the power and enabling presence of the Holy Spirit. He was joyful in the midst of trials, hunger, cold, betrayal, and even death because the Spirit provided Him with the strength to choose Joy. That same Spirit was sent to us (John 15:26-27), to enable you and I in our humanity just as He enabled Jesus in His. I have to decide to remain in Joy, but thanks be to God, I don't have to get there or stay there by myself - the Spirit will enable me (Galatians 5:22).
Whew. That was a lot, and I'm still working through this too. Thank you for being on this journey with me! If you're resonating with these posts, let me know! I'd love to chat with you. And tune in next Friday for the final installment: Love.