"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him; and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song, I praise Him." (Psalm 28:7)
As we've been reading along in God's word and in The Uncluttered Heart this week, reflecting on joy, there is one idea that I've felt God driving home to me all week: whether or not you have joy is not dependent on whether or not you feel joyful.
It started with the reminder from Monday's reading about joy being a fruit of the Spirit. "Hap, you have my Spirit; therefore, you have joy." It isn't something I can produce on my own - it's something He grows in me. I may not experience the emotional benefits of it all the time, anymore than I experience the benefits of wearing my favorite (and very warm) sweatshirt while it's in the laundry - but just because I'm not aware of it, doesn't mean I cease to have it.
Because Jesus is my Saviour, I have the Spirit of God in me (John 14:16-17).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Therefore, I have joy.
Awesome, right? But it gets even better. The Bible also tells us two other things about joy:
1. that the joy of the Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
and 2. that joy replaces sorrow. (Esther 9:20-22, Isaiah 35:9-10, Isaiah 51:11, Jeremiah 31:12-13)
And this is a part of the good news of great joy that we wait for in this Advent season. (Luke 2:10). Emmanuel, God with us - Jesus - came to this world for a little while, experienced first hand what life is like for us, paid the price for our sins, and rose from the dead. Then, when He went back to His Father, He asked Him to send us His Spirit to help us - and one of the things the Spirit does is produce joy in our hearts - joy that strengthens us when we are weak and beaten down by the sorrows of this world; joy that foreshadows and is a promise of the lasting joy that will be ours, when all things fade away, and we are finally Home with Him.
Sorrow - no matter how deeply felt - is only temporary. Joy will come. Indeed, it is already here!
There is so much comfort in that.
"God rest ye merry, gentlemen" (and women). It's been my favorite Christmas carol for ages, and I love those words.
"God rest ye" - may God cause you to rest. "God rest ye merry" - may God cause you to rest with gladness in your heart.
Wherever you are today, friends, whatever the sorrows that burden your heart - my prayer for you is that you will remember the deeds of the Lord and His kindness toward you, that joy will flood your soul as you do, and that you will find at the end of this day that God really has rested ye merry.