Guest Writer: Shena Smith from Daughters United In Christ, Inc.
“Joy is not in things. It is in us.” ~Richard Wagner
A few months ago, a dear friend of mine challenged me, in addition to her blog audience, to focus on one of the “fruits of the Spirit” mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 that was chosen at random for an entire month. I’m still unsure if she knew the one she gave to me or not, but it was a mystery until day 1 of the challenge to me as the recipient. In situations like this, I try to predict based on my view of my circumstances which topic or focus will be given since I sporadically think I know about myself just as much as God does…absolutely prideful of me. I thought since I was newly married (and technically still am four months in) that the fruit of choice would be love. Much to my surprise but definitely orchestrated by my Father, joy was chosen for me. Right before this challenge began, my husband and I began to face some challenges and issues, and trials that we knew would come in marriage but not as early as they emerged. Emotions were fluctuating, faith was tested, and godly truths seemed impalpable. Much of what we mastered as single people became purified and sifted further as married people. Although I understood joy as a single woman, I now became tested to choose that same joy, same fruit as a married woman.
Many believe that the goal in life is to be happy. She feels good. She feels euphoric. She become, however, evanescent. The thing about happiness – like all emotions – is that they fluctuate and are dependent on the circumstance, mood, or situation. We are not sad everyday. We are not angry everyday. We are not disappointed everyday. Happiness is something that brings pleasure but typically is found as a result of an object, experience, person, or item. Joy supersedes happiness because it is a great pleasure that is established and firmly rooted within, watered by heavenly truth, and revealed by the unveiling of Jesus’ presence in us. It takes little effort to go binge shopping when you feel depressed or eat some high calorie or sugary food or even indulge in some other avoidance behavior, causing minimal pleasure that does not even touch the root of your ailment. During the challenge, I noticed that the more I set my mind to read biblical truth about the importance of worship and prayer and strategically speaking those things aloud as opposed to fixating on what wasn’t going right, or what I wanted to change, a sweet and calm presence illuminated such light, clarity, and peace despite the external chaos and turbulence I was facing.When I do a comparison of moments in my life where I plugged in “empty fillers” through food, people, outings and the like, they only ameliorated the surface of my issue. I still found myself spinning in circles over some of the same anguish. Whereas now, when I plug in what feels at times unnatural because it is still adopting a renewed way to live, I feel a deeper sense of healing, peace, and clarity on the circumstances that is indescribable. In John 17:8-18, Jesus gives us His prayer for His disciples: those who forsake living opposed to how God designed them to live. What I love is the clarity of what joy actually is. It is something “fulfilled in [ourselves]. Notice it is not an outward focus on someone or something that can come and go at any moment. It is a constant presence; an internal knowing; an established anchor of assurance that our lives, our problems, our desires are all placed in the care of our Creator. Joy propels me to display pure light despite dark times. Joy causes me to smile though I feel agony. Joy allows me to trust despite not knowing what my future fully holds.
I am grateful to God for putting me on my friend’s mind to bring this challenge to my attention. I learned that no one can take anything that belongs to you unless you give them permission. And I no longer give the devil or any other antagonistic force to take what belongs within me: joy.
Consider this week your “empty fillers” and how you can boldly utilize God’s truth to stand in joy despite what happens around you.