The Fruit of the Spirit – Living a Spirit-filled life
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
Day 4: Joy
“What has happened to all your joy?” - Galatians 4:15
Joy and peace seem to go together, don’t they? D.L. Moody said, “Joy is love exalted, peace is love at rest.” Joy is something like happiness, something like excitement. It is joy that leads to praise, to bursting into song, to snapping a picture on your phone and posting it on Instagram to show others how beautiful the lilacs are this year. Joy wants to be spoken of and shared. In the New Testament epistles (letters) the word joy, chara, is often used to express the feeling of seeing good things happen to someone you care about. (Romans 16:19, Philippians 1:4). Joy is the feeling of people when they are filled with the Spirit, when they hear the good news of the gospel for the first time. (Luke 10:17&21, Acts 16:34) God takes joy in us. (Zeph 3:17)
Joy is something that is not dependent on pleasant circumstances, and can be present even in suffering (James 1:4). However it was something that the Galatians seemed to have lost in their legalism. Joy and peace can be the canary in the coal mine – when they stop singing, they can signify that something has gone wrong, that there is poison in the air. Legalism can choke joy, being in the wrong place for you – an unhealthy relationship, a stressful job, a church or community with unhealthy dynamics – can choke joy. Depression can extinguish joy completely, making even the most beautiful spring day seem like the dark of winter. If you have lost your joy, look around and see where the poison may be coming from.
But there are times in a Christian’s life when joy may leave for seemingly no reason. Saint John of the Cross wrote that during these times God has taken away the outward manifestation of God’s presence so that we will be able to meet God on an even deeper level than we had previously known. If your circumstances are not toxic, if you are sure you are not struggling with depression, then wait. Be patient. Don’t try to strong-arm joy back into your life. See what God may be trying to teach you in this time. Barbara Brown Taylor wrote:
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
About The Author
Jessica Kantrowitz spent many years in seminary, earning an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and in various ministries to both Americans and international students. When a health crisis coincided with a faith-shift she left her job in an Evangelical parachurch organization and rediscovered her joy in writing. Her work has been published on Think Christian and The Good Men Project and shared widely throughout social media, in particular her essays, Bake for them two and Things I've been wrong about for most of my life, part one. She lives in Boston where she also works as a nanny and an academic editor. You can find her at her blog, Ten Thousand Places, and on Facebook and Twitter.