God's Garden of Grace, Chapter 3

Well, I've got to get through chapter 3 or else I'll never be able to finish this book.

I'm not sure how I interpreted this chapter the summer after my freshman year in college, but I think I missed a thing or two. I always thought that everyone around me had joy except for me. I struggled on and off with depression and anger, and my interpretation of joy only came in short bursts - like when I got to participate in the worship team or sing in the school choir, or when I joined various clubs on campus. Reading through Elizabeth George's third chapter on joy being one of the fruits of the spirit made me realize two things: first of all, what I was feeling in those brief spurts of energy wasn't joy, and second, what I was seeing in others that I so jealously wanted in my life wasn't joy either. It was merely happiness at doing things and getting things. I was able to see myself in happiness and depression, but I wonder how many of my classmates had learned to hide their unhappy moments and firmly believe that their happiness was pure joy?

Chapter 3
George tells us first that joy was an important principle taught by Jesus, and it is an expression of Godliness. She tells us joy is permanent when we take on the name of Christ, but that same joy can be less evident if we are not walking in the spirit.
Like love, another fruit of the spirit, the Holy Spirit is always full of joy; it is always available when we are depleted or when we realize we are happy, but not joyful.
She summarizes with three important concepts.

  • Joy is not dependent on circumstances, but on the spiritual realities of God's goodness, His unconditional love for us, and His ultimate victory over sin and darkness.
  • Joy is not based on our efforts, accomplishments, or willpower, but rather on the truth about our relationship with the Father through the Son.
  • Joy is not merely an emotion, but the result of choosing to look beyond what appears to be true in our life to what is true about our forgiven, saved, and redeemed life in Christ.

For me, the most important lesson I've learned through reading this chapter is that joy is not an emotion. I will continue to have happy days and sad days. I'm beginning to think that my life is a rollercoaster of emotions. But no matter what I can choose to be joyful, and if that choice is difficult, the Holy Spirit is there to help me and fill me up with joy.
I do remember those times when I felt completely empty. Singing praise songs was my way of tuning into the spirit. Even though that's not currently an option for me, I know there are other ways of walking in the spirit. So I would encourage you to not ignore your feelings, but recognize that Heavenly Father has given us the choice to experience joy if we simply ask and continue to walk in the spirit.

Study Guide
What perspective on suffering do you find in 1 Peter 1:6-8? What reason for joy is given here?
1 Peter 1:6-8 says, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory".
What I understand from this verse is that Peter admits or rather understands that we will suffer either by our own hand or by forces we can't control. Regardless, if we live by faith and still choose to rejoice, we will be refined and find our treasure in heaven.
When do you find it hardest to experience joy in the Lord? How do circumstances affect your joy? What sacrifice of praise might you offer even when circumstances weigh you down?
I admit I still struggle to understand the difference between happiness and joy - one being a feeling and one being a choice to supercede our feelings. When I'm having a bad day, it is difficult to do anything, much less ask the Holy Spirit for joy. But I've been told multiple times that sometimes action has to come first and motivation, second. So aside from writing on bad days, I can also add asking the Holy Spirit for joy to conquer my feelings.

Plan of action
Following the life of Hannah in the Old Testament, there are four things to better experience the joy of the Holy Spirit: quietly endure your pain, release any thoughts of vengeance, seek God in prayer, and offer a sacrifice of praise so that God can touch you with His joy.

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The Farris Wheel said...

I struggle too when I don't "feel" the joy, and I feel like I should. Like I'm supposed to. It helps to remember, like you said, that it's not an emotion. It's a way-down-deep state of the soul. Great post.