Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
We all long to experience joy. Do we opt for safe joy when Jesus offers full joy?
When I was a little girl, I didn't wear that many dresses. On the occasions I did, it was a big deal to me. I loved twirling, seeing the room spin while my dress opened up into a swirl of colors. Made me laugh. I'd grab my Radio Shack AM radio, turn the dial to find a static free station, and I'd work the room like I was auditioning for Flashdance.
One night when my aunts and uncles were all together, I was allowed to stay up late. I wanted to show off a new, long nightgown I'd gotten for Christmas. So, I bounced into the middle of the room and spontaneously busted out some swan lake moves. I was expecting some oohs and aahs. Instead, the room exploded into roars of laughter. One uncle rolled onto the floor hoopin' and hollering, while another aunt sprayed her drink in the air; they were laughing so hard.
As I stood there confused, someone finally let me in on what was so funny. They said I was a funny ballerina because underneath my beautiful nightgown, I forgot I was still wearing my old flannel PJs.
My mom thought it was important for me to stay warm. So, she had me pair my nightgowns with PJ pants. I turned around and ran into the bedroom, shut the door and just bawled my eyes out. I was so embarrassed.
I carry the same type of suspicion about joy.
I'm afraid to trust joy fully, because I don't want to be wrong about joy.
Don't be misled. I am a joyful person. But I'm learning that my joy is "safe."
* I am a celebrate-junkie. If a day is going beige, I can figure out a random reason to make a special dinner, desert, or invite a friend over.
* I love encouraging others. I can't imagine a better way to spend time with people in everyday life than hearing them share stories of faith.
* I have tasted God's joy in hard times. I have trusted God through extended periods of trial and I've tasted the joy of His peace and presence, even when life hurt.
When it comes to being joyful for myself or personal pursuits, I am very hesitant to abandon myself to joy.
You see, my misconceptions about joy don't stem from God. They point to new areas He's asking me to trust Him in.
I thought faith was mainly used to get us through difficulties.
God has been showing me faith is equally needed to accept the grace and gift of joy.
I've been asking God to help me experience what Jesus calls "joy made full".
"...These things I speak in the world so that they (disciples) may have My joy made full in themselves." ~ Jesus' final prayer before He faced the cross John 17:13
Full is translated in the Greek as "pleroo."
- Filled to the brim
- Full Joy
In response, I've been asking myself -- what is keeping me from full joy?
Top 3 Misconceptions
Here are the Top 3 Misconceptions I've been holding and the Full Joy Truths I'm discovering:
Misconception#1: Full Joy feels irresponsible. I have so many problems that are unresolved. Full joy seems dismissive of these important issues. You can't just be happy!
Full Joy Truth#1: Jesus has paid the price for my shortcomings, so that I'm free to enjoy His grace. To the best of my creativity, I can find moments and pursuits that bring me joy. And I'm free to enjoy it guilt-free!
"How much more will the blood of Christ who... offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ~Hebrews 9:14
Misconception #2: Full Joy feels reckless. You will open yourself to temptation once you feel so much pleasure. Stop!
Full Joy Truth #2: The fruit of the Spirit is joy. As long as I value the nearness of God, joy is good. Nothing can separate me from God's love.
"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good: I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." ~Psalm 73:28
"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing ... thinkable or unthinkable.., can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." ~Romans 8:38-39
Misconception #3: Joy feels self-deceptive. Look at your negative attitudes, the habits you fail to change. You don't deserve joy.
Full Joy Truth #3: I deserve joy because of who God has destined me to become, not because of who I am now. Because of God's perfecting work in my life, I can enjoy joy without embarrassment for my past or the present faults.
"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." ~1 John 3:2
"But in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer." ~Romans 8:37
Joy may feel risky. It takes faith to step into the middle of life, twirl and spin with joy.
But, we can know Jesus is sitting front row and center, clapping for us.
Some may say this joy sounds self-centered? I don't think so.
Joy is God-centered. Jesus loves me. This I know.
How are you experiencing joy in the current chapter of your life?
For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest, which garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly. There is a special e-book kindle pricing on sale for $1.99 until 8/8/15.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.
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