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We sat in a circle in my living room, myself and the girls in my small group. Together, we were on a journey, a quest to find joy. Desiring to dig deeper, we wanted to grasp hold of joy and explore its wonders. Yet that evening, our hearts were heavy as our life stories from the week reflected each of our struggles to even capture a mere glimpse of joy.
Some days, it seems like it's just beyond our reach.
As I talked with the girls in my small group about joy, I wondered, could my own joy grow despite the jumbled and inconsistent mess of my life? Could it thrive and be nourished, even when I feel lost and uncertain? What about when life is hard, why does joy always seem to go dormant, like the trees in winter?
The longer I travel this journey to joy, the more I learn that joy isn’t what I once thought it was. I used to see joy as something that only the happy, outgoing, and naturally optimistic people have. When it comes to drinking glasses, I've always been the one holding the glass that’s "half empty". So I assumed that joy wasn't possible for me. Slowly, I've come to realize that I too can experience real joy, even all the time, and that "Rejoice in the Lord always" wasn't just written for the optimistic crowd, but for me as well.
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True joy is intertwined and inseparable from the gospel. Gospel joy. It’s what accompanies the gift of faith. When I was called to be a disciple of Christ and received the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, gospel joy became a part of me, just like the Spirit who now lives and reigns in my heart. Being rescued, ransomed, and redeemed by my Savior has freed me from a joyless eternity apart from him. And this gospel joy only grows the more I realize the depths and riches of Christ’s love for me.
Yet, because I still live in a broken and sinful world, the effects of the Fall still linger. There is still pain and sorrow. Suffering and physical death remains a certainty. What I’m learning in my journey is that joy can co-exist with other feelings and circumstances like sorrow and fear. Even when life is at its hardest, joy is still there. Gospel joy is always present, like an anchor in the storms of life. It's what trickles through the cracks of my messy life. Like a river’s current, it carries me through the challenges and pains of life in this fallen world.
And when the skies are darkest and I can’t see joy anywhere, I believe by faith that it’s there. Sometimes, the fog of life’s circumstances is so thick that I need a reminder to bring joy back into focus. I need to remember the gospel and the gift of grace I have through Christ to help me see the joy through the clouds. Like the sun that always shines overhead no matter the weather, the joy of the Lord never ceases.
The Dance of Joy
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In fact, joy is what the Trinity has experienced together from all eternity. They have always danced the dance of other-serving love where joy overflows from a never ending fountain. And the wonder of it all is that God desired to share that joy with us through his Son, Jesus. It was through Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death we’ve been given entry to the dance. We have been clothed in brilliant flowing gowns of Christ’s righteousness that sparkle and sway with every dance step. In this life, we learn and practice the dance of joy, experiencing a foretaste of what awaits us in eternity. And as our faith grows, we experience more and more of what it means to have the “joy of the Lord.”
My journey to joy has been a challenge. I’ve had to understand that joy is not intertwined with or dependent upon my circumstances. Rather, real gospel joy rises above my circumstances. I’ve also learned that joy is there even when I can't see it. By faith in what Christ did for me at the cross, joy has become mine forever. So every day, I must journey deep beneath the messiness of my life, below the uncertainties and challenges, and practice the dance of joy that Christ died to give me. Because one day, the fog will be lifted forever and I will see Joy face to face. There will no longer be suffering, fear, or uncertainties to cloud my view. And together we’ll dance the dance of perfect love and joy, for all eternity.
Christina Fox, @toshowthemjesus, is a homeschooling mom, licensed mental health counselor, writer, and coffee drinker, not necessarily in that order. She lives in sunny S. Florida with her husband of sixteen years and their two boys. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ToShowThemJesus.