Monday, May 9, 2011

Working on Joy

Today would have been my grandma's 81st birthday. Instead of spending it with all of us on a joyous Mother's Day, she's spending it with Jesus this year. I know she's having a raucous party with Him and all of her family and friends who have gone on before. But this morning I keenly feel the loss. And while this makes me sad, it also gives me hope. Paul describes the Christian who has been justified by faith in Christ as rejoicing "in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Paul also tells us that joy is part of the fruit the Holy Spirit cultivates in the lives of believers. And it is high on the list, second only to love. Wow!

The Holy Spirit obviously places a high priority on working joy into our lives. First of all, we have joy in our present salvation. Second, we have joy in the future consummation of our salvation. In 1 Peter 8-9, Peter points to the believers greatly rejoicing in "an inheritance that can never spoil or fade, kept in heaven." Third, the central aspect of all this joy is joy in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist expresses this is Psalm 43:4 by calling God "my joy and my delight," that is, "my exceeding joy." St. Augustine expresses this well in one of his many prayers from the Confessions:

O Lord, far be it from me to think that whatever joy I feel makes me
truly happy. For there is a joy that is not given to those who do not
love you, but only to those who love you for your own sake. You your-
self are their joy. Happiness is to rejoice in you and for you and because
of you. This is true happiness, and there is no other. Those who think
there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is
not true joy.

That is the joy the Holy Spirit works in the lives of God's own. I recognize the joy that is felt in God's presence, but it has not been abundant in me on a daily basis. And my focus now needs to be to cultivate joy: I need to be in the Word daily, readying and fertilizing the soil in which that joy will grow. I need to listen to praise and worship, watering and feeding that joy so it can be nourished. I need to go to church and stay involved in Bible study to bask in the warmth from the life-giving Son. I need to hold on to the promise of that joy, the knowledge that it is there, under the soil, a tiny seed preparing to burst forth, forming and growing into something beautiful.

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