So why don’t I feel joyful?
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My middle name is Joy. Mom says she could see the evidence of the joy I was named for early in my life. As a baby I would giggle when a breeze brushed my cheek. As a toddler I would gleefully sing Sunday-school songs in public places, spreading smiles all around. In general, I had a happy countenance. When wrestling with my bouts of depression, I wonder where that little girl went. In frustration I balk at my given name as it seemingly mocks my aching.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version
Being named Joy does not give me more of a right to experience joy than any other believer. Scripture tells us that joy is a part of the makeup of every Christian. Maybe, like me, you get frustrated by the apparent absence of joy. If joy’s a fruit of the Spirit within us, then why don’t we experience that fruit all the time?
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, NIV
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:25, NIV
If we are not intentionally matching our pace with the Spirit’s then we are quenching him and our joy. Prayer, thanksgiving, and rejoicing in all circumstances keep us in step with the Spirit and cultivates joy. And though joy may not always be primary in our feelings, it will always be there under-girding our hearts as we lean into relationship with the Father, releasing the Spirit to move freely within us. I confess I don’t always do that, do you?
The Jesus Who Comes in this Christmas season gives us a closeness with the Father which can’t be severed by our sin, circumstances, or our feelings. He has called us by name and we are his forever! Therein lies our ever-present joy.
Photo and text copyright Jennifer Brukiewa