By Jill Briscoe
In the end, joy dies when we do not practice it.
Joy is produced by praise glancing heavenward, feeling its soul begin to smile. Joy is Jesus – God in Galilean cloth, walking our earth, bearing our cross, burying our sin with Him, and rising again to offer us life. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2). He is busy preparing a place for you and me and anyone who will thank and praise Him for His salvation. There is such joy in realizing we’re headed home – especially if our homes down here are hard and loveless places to be. Joy is first and foremost produced by praise.
Joy is produced by perseverance, too. We must deliberately joy in the journey, however dark the night or rough the road. That takes an act of the will – to reach out a hand to find Him and grasp His heavenly help, to seek in the dark until we see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. As we persevere, there is joy in finding our frantic spirit held in His arms.
Joy is presence – His precious presence. As we practice the presence of God moment by moment and day by day, month by month and year by year, our life will find meaning and rest. It is hardest to practice His presence when the sun comes out and the spring flowers cover the earth. But our joy will fade like the flowers of the field if we do not.
I have a problem with my lower back (who doesn’t!). Sometimes it’s fine, and sometimes it’s not, and occasionally it puts me in bed or in the hospital. I have found I need to look after my relationship with my back when it’s well, not when it’s in poor shape – and that’s hard. Why sit properly, refuse to lift heavy stuff, and ask for help when I’m feeling just fine? Yet if I don’t pamper it when it’s good, it’s only a matter of time till I’m in trouble again. Likewise, we must care for our relationship with God when things are good and not just when life is painful. This way, when trouble comes, we feel so good that we hardly notice the bad spell at all. It’s as if we’re held above it on a cushion of joy.
Joy is produced by praise, perseverance and practice, and it is sustained by God. He has placed His ever-loving hand upon our life, guiding and keeping us, connecting and blessing us. Joy is something only God can give, for joy is His heart!
So are you ready to joy in God? Start by being grateful for who He is. Then think of all the things you are grateful for. I am grateful for life and health and a roof over my head. I am grateful for our children, who love the Lord, and our nine grandkids, who are learning to do the same. I am grateful we came to America thirty years ago, and I’m grateful for my roots and heritage in our beloved England. I’m grateful for my church and my Christian friends and the gifts God gave me to serve with. I’m grateful for the thousands and thousands of miles flown safely in the friendly skies and for God’s forever family I’ve met around the world. And believe it or not, I’m even grateful for the dark times, too: for pain and hospital stays, suffering, and the death of loved ones. I’m trying to be grateful for problems that haven’t yet been solved and perhaps never will be, and even for pain that doesn’t quit, because these things make me more grateful than ever that I’m a believer, that I’m a forgiven child of God. The hard times make me so grateful for Jesus, my Companion, Helper, Friend, and Brother, my Savior, Lord and King. He is the lifter up of my head and my heart and my highest hope. He is the light of my life and the joy of my soul! I have determined I will not hang up my harp on the ungrateful tree, for then I would be choosing death rather than life, chains rather than freedom, tears rather than laughter, despair rather than hope.
May God grace us with the grace to be continually, everlasting grateful, for therein lies joy!