This spring has been one of the rougher seasons for our family. We’re coming off 12 weeks (yes, 3 months) of solid illness and injury, and I’m figuratively and literally limping to the finish line. An examination of my googling history tells the story. I’ve searched everything from “Benadryl dosages for itchy kids” to “physical therapists for herniated disc,” “rare skin rashes” to “do the terrible twos automatically end on the third birthday?” (I’m still holding out hope on that last one.)
So when asked to share about joy today, I admittedly lifted my still sinus-infected head to the heavens and said, “Really, God?! You’re giving me joy?” I confess that lately my life has felt, in a word, joyless.
I’ve done all the “joy capturing” exercises in an attempt to shape up. I’ve made the gratitude lists, numbering those things that give me moments of happiness in my day: matcha lattes, husband-emptied dishwashers, YouTube videos of pets underestimating the distance from the coffee table to the couch. I’ve searched so hard to see every blessing in my life and my present circumstances. And yet, amid grief and hardship and hurts, I come up short.
It turns out joy is kinda like the car keys that slipped between the cushions of my favorite easy chair—I’m looking for it in all the wrong places.
True joy is not something that can be conjured up or willed. Joy exists apart from our control—we simply choose whether or not to enter in. Joy, the Psalmist tells us, is given in God’s presence. It will never end, never fall short, never disappoint (Psalm 16:11).
Joy is not momentary pleasure—it is the deep and lasting condition of our relationship with God this world cannot steal away. Christ tells us, “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).
My exercises of gratitude for things of this world cannot produce because joy is not a fruit of our work, our circumstances or ourselves. Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit. It is a manifestation of who He is, a result of the heart-transforming power of Jesus Christ in us.
We are commanded time and time again in Scripture to “rejoice,” “be joyful” and even consider trials as “pure joy.” Why? Because Jesus is always, always worthy of our rejoicing. If we label our lives as joyless, it is due to our misplaced hope and pleasure in things of the world rather than the joy of our salvation.
So, I have a new joy exercise plan. I will admit the wrong places, albeit sometimes good places (my family, my work, my community), where I am looking for joy and surrender them to God. I will ask the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of joy in my life with the prayer, “Lord, remind me of the joy I have because of what You have done!” I will—joyfully!—look to His Word and rest in His promises.
Then I will hit my knees, bow my still sinus-infected head and pray, Really, God. YOU are my joy.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
- Psalm 92:4, ESV
Sarah Matheny is an ever-growing, ever-changing gal, laughing and living in the Pacific Northwest. One-time attorney, food blogger, and author, all-the-time wife and mom to three wild-eyed, spunky girly girls, she’s passionate about her family, her friends and growing in her walk with Christ as He dishes up an always unpredictable, but totally delicious life.