So if joy is more than mere satisfaction, how do we find it? Galatians 5:22 says that joy is a fruit, which means that it can’t be manufactured; it can only be cultivated. “Growing” joy might not be the same as tending a garden, but there are some striking similarities . . .
Joy starts as a seed, a seed of faith that matures and grows through obedience to God’s word. Given enough time and attention, this small shoot of well-watered faith will grow into something so unshakable that even life’s most torrential downpours can’t wash it away. The main thing that separates joy from happiness is that it’s not based on circumstances – it’s based on something beyond them.
Nowhere else do we see such a clear picture of this than in the life of Jesus. The One who could have settled for personal happiness chose joy instead, even if it meant going to the cross. How could Jesus willingly choose to endure such unimaginable pain and suffering? He did it for His Father’s glory. He did it for our salvation. But according to Hebrews 12:2, He also did it for the joy that was set before him. He knew that beyond the cross, the right hand of His Father’s throne awaited Him. He believed in something good, and his faith made the pain endurable. Although he was God, he was also man, and his faith sustained him through the trials he faced – and allowed him to see the joy beyond the pain.
You and I are no different. Without faith and the joy it brings, we wither and shrivel up under the scorching heat of this life. But when our lives are centered around our faith in Jesus, joy springs up from an otherwise parched and fruitless ground.
Do you have this kind of faith? If so, chances are you are already experiencing joy. But if you’re not, maybe it’s time to take a personal inventory and ask yourself what role faith plays in your life. Is it central or peripheral? Peripheral faith leads to weak joy or no joy at all. But faith that stands at the center of our existence, at the core of our identity – the kind of faith that Jesus had – will bring joy that is overwhelming and unstoppable.
If you’re looking for joy, don’t start in search of a harvest. Begin with a seed. Plant it deep in your heart, and nurture it by watering it with God’s word. You’ll be surprised at how quickly it grows and how soon it develops into something that looks – and tastes – a lot like joy.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2 NIV
A Prayer for Joy
Lord, in a world that is hostile to joy, teach me how to cultivate it. Fix my eyes on Jesus and teach me what it means to have authentic, life-changing, joy-producing faith. May your word be the seed that becomes the harvest of joy I so desperately want. Amen.