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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Galatians 5:22-24
I’m sure Simon, Andrew, Matthew, James, or John none knew the kinds of adventures would be theirs as they began to follow Jesus. Could they ever have imagined seeing Jesus take the little girl by the hand and restore her to life and her parents? Would they ever have dreamed of taking up 12 baskets full of leftovers after Jesus fed the multitude with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread? Could they have predicted the joy of the wedding party at Cana when Jesus changed water into wine? Each time they would have to conclude, “God did that!”
Such is the wellspring of joy: Seeing God at work. That being the case we might expect to be filled with joy every day. For God is at work every day. Not a breath is taken apart from his providential care. No sunrise or sunset unfolds apart from his will and word. We awake each morning at his command. We look upon nature, landscape, flower, and beauty of a thousand kinds at his good pleasure. God is at work all around us. Every moment. Ought we not be filled with joy in all these things and times?
There is, however, a dark cloud over all these things. Hurricane, earthquake, illness, and troubles intrude. Three children are discovered in an abandoned apartment with the decaying remains of their sibling (CBS News). Cancer treatments become suddenly necessary, and too often don’t work. Marriages fail. Friendships fracture. Moments of weakness give way to hours of regret.
This is the seedbed, however, of a greater joy. For God shows up. Police rescue the children because someone finally decided to act to let them know of the situation. God’s mercy reaches into the hearts of estranged couples and they find delight once again in each other. A Sunday message, a Bible passage, a blog post, a podcast, or a Christian song opens up a heart to God’s mercy. Forgiveness brings unspeakable relief and great joy.
When the situation is dire and God shows up we find the strongest expressions of joy. The dark hours of deep contrition give way to the glory of sin’s weight lifted. The restrictive bonds of worry are loosed by the peace of God in a moment of prayer and Scripture. The gloom of despair is cleared by the revelation of God’s goodness. These come as the Holy Spirit has his way in us. Moving us to repentance. Opening our eyes to a path of blessing. Reminding us of the hope we have because of Jesus’ resurrection. Rescuing us from disease.
Several years ago I was feeling quite ill. I had chills, fever, headache, and an overall miserable feeling. It got so bad that I asked Diane to lay hands on me and pray for me. In less than 5 minutes after that prayer, the fever was lifted. I was physically revived. And I was filled with joy. God did that. I wonder whether we might see God’s hand in our lives in such a dramatic way that we, too, are filled with joy. If so, then, in the refrain of the hymn, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice, be glad, and sing!”