Betty Knowlton brought the devotional to open our February meeting and I have asked permission to share it here on Lillie-Put.
I know it is March and almost time for our next monthly meeting but these thoughts on joy stand to be repeated.
I am doing a study on the Fruits of the Spirit—and an evaluation of where I am on the ‘fruit’ scale ‘continuum’. I started with ‘Joy’ because a former co-worker of mine passed away recently—and while thinking back on our lives together, I recalled that she often commented on how I was always singing when I passed by her desk. I was always singing—but somewhere along the way, I realized that I had stopped singing throughout my day. Hmmm… When, How, Why did this change? It was, it is, pretty clear that I had lost something…Maybe my joy?
The last 10-15 years have been a bit tough for our family. In the 2001-2006 years, Ken had a couple of heart attacks and a number of stents and I had retina detachments and eye surgeries with resultant double vision. In 2008, Ken’s dad passed away from lung cancer while two of my brothers were diagnosed with cancer. In 2009, Ken’s mom died. Also in 2009, my oldest brother died from esophageal cancer. In 2010-11, two more brothers were diagnosed with cancer and we also had 3 other family struggles that we were dealing with. In 2012, a nephew was murdered in Mexico and my oldest sister was diagnosed with cancer. In 2013, one brother died from cancer of the larynx and in 2014 my sister died from uterine cancer. Yes, somewhere in all this, I think I did lose some of my joy
I love Downton Abbey and I find myself watching various PBS programs on England and, in one, they featured Windsor Castle with its 38’ x 19’ Royal Standard Flag. But the flag is only flown when the Queen is in residence—at all other times, the Union Flag is flown. It is a specific guard’s duty to lower the Union flag and raise the Royal Standard flag as the Queen’s entourage approaches the castle. The guard has a ‘responsibility’ to raise the flag.
When Ken and I were youth leaders, we often performed choral pieces and musicals. One medley of songs included this song: (sing)
Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, from the castle of my heart, from the castle of my heart, from the castle of my heart. Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, when the King is in residence there.
Like the guard at Windsor Castle, we have both a choice and a responsibility to raise our flag of joy when the King is in residence here (point to heart). So what is joy? It’s NOT happiness. Happiness is based on tangible things or events or people. We can be happy one moment and anything but the next. I love this illustration or metaphor that I found in Kay Warren’s book, ‘Choose Joy Because Happiness is not Enough’.
We tend to look at life as a series of hills and valleys (and I’ve spent a lot of time questioning why our family has had so many valleys). But Kay talks about the everyday, wonderful good things that happen every day and that bring us pleasure, contentment, happiness and beauty. And at the same time, painful things happen to us and to those we love that disappoint, hurt and fill us with sorrow. These two tracks, envision train tracks with me—joy and sorrow—run parallel every moment of every day of our lives. And just like train tracks that appear to merge together in the far distance, all of this—the joy and the sorrow—will all make sense when our tracks come together in Heaven!
There are a whole lot of things that can get in the way and rob us of our joy, But we still have both a choice and a God-given responsibility to possess and demonstrate joy. Joy is part of our birthright from our heavenly Father. The Bible teaches that a life of internal rest and outward victory is our Christian birthright.
Sometimes this choice is like being a trapeze artist; ya gotta let go of one bar to grab onto the other. And if you hold onto both, you go nowhere and the muscles in your arms can be torn apart. But if you choose to let go, you fly and you find freedom and joy.
What I’m learning is something I’ve read by Billy Graham: Resentment or resignation is not the answer to the problem of suffering. And there is a step beyond mere acceptance. It is accepting with joy! James writes: ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything at all. (James 1:2-4)
Let me close with a few quotes—a few more nuggets of truth to chew on.
- Christianity was never meant to make us miserable.
- What a witness to the world Christians would be, if only we were evidently very happy people.
- Our sense of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment in life increases, no matter what the circumstances, if we are in the center of God’s will.
- Joy is NOT the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.
And this last one has a bit of humor to it:
- If we can’t be a good example of God’s love and joy, then we’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning to others!