Friday, March 30, 2012

JOY & HAPPINESS... and other things I've learned from my friend

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. I am blessed to have such a friend in my life. Every time she speaks, I learn something. What a gift to have, what a gift to give. The ironic thing is I don't think she even knows she possesses it.

You would think that she and I see eye to eye on everything yet it is often the opposite. It's what we do share that makes all the difference. Grace, compassion and respect. I feel most often as if she has a bigger dose of all 3.

My friend made a recent fb post about joy and letting go of what doesn't bring it. I was quick to chime in that I would no longer be cooking or shoveling snow, thank you very much. However, that post has stuck with me now for a few days and caused me to give some real thought to joy (a feeling of which I have not had much of lately). So I went to the old stand by Mr. Webster to see what he had to say about this elusive emotion. He claims that joy is "The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by success, good fortune, and the like, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exhilaration of spirits; delight". Sigh...this left me feeling even worse. Am I really only going to experience joy if I could acquire good or be successful. Am I really going to face a life of "if onlys"...

So I thought about what I knew of joy before I checked in with Mr. W. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22 that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and I thought about all of these words and realized they all have one thing in common. They are all inner character traits or, spiritual practices, if you will. They are all choices we make to be or act a certain way and they do not depend on the external. They are all actions or characteristics we can choose to employ, or not, even when life is crappy. So how does possesing joy which according to Webster, is dependent upon the external, fit into this list? Would God give us a list of great character qualities but throw in one that hinges upon what's happening around us. I don't think so. I think Mr. Webster has defined happiness and missed the boat on joy. I think joy is a spiritual practice that we have to choose to employ, that grows out of faith, grace, gratitude, hope, and love. It is the pure and simple delight in being alive. It is also the deep satisfaction we know when we are able to serve others and be glad for their good fortune. I think in our weakness we (I) have allowed life and all it's messes to rob me of my joy.

I can choose to love everyday in a world that hates. I can choose to live at peace everyday in a world that wages war. I can choose to be patient in a world that says "me first". I can choose to be kind when someone hurts me. I can choose to be good when the opportunity to be bad is ever present. I can choose to be faithful when others walk away. I can choose to be gentle in a brutal world. I can choose to tell myself no in the midst of a society that says "It's my right to have it". If I can choose all those things with the help of the Holy Spirit that lives in me I can certainly choose to live joyfully in a sad and messed up world. I can find the joy in knowing that my family is well fed by the meal I cooked because I take my eyes off me and put them on them. I can live with joy in a sad and messed up world because I know that this is just a temporary stop, that God has given me a purpose to fulfill while I am here and it isn't about me, it's about Him. It's about sharing His joy that He has shared with me. Joy is really the outcome of my relationship with Jesus and His joy is my strength.

Thank you my friend for causing me to think and to realize that I have a lack of joy not because of my circumstances but because my relationship with the Lord is currently out of sync. I guess I've known it for a while but I need to act on it. Thank you for having the grace to accept me where I am at even when it's not he same place as you. I treasure you.