The Essence of Joy

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The moment my first child, our son Ben, was born and placed in my arms I experienced something profoundly new in my soul.

To say that I was happy, delighted, elated, thrilled, enraptured … doesn’t adequately describe what I experienced in that moment. A door somewhere in my soul had opened and I had been ushered into something infinite and holy, something deeply satisfying and bursting with possibility and grandeur.

I believe it was in this moment that Joy made a defining entrance into my life.

I’m sure there have been other instances throughout my life when joy fluttered in and touched my soul, but this moment, when Ben was born, was the moment Joy ‘came of age’, came to reside, and came to lead me into new territory.

This was the first time that I truly understood the union the Holy Spirit and I have. This was the time when He and I together created a life. For nine months the Holy Spirit had been breathing upon this little human form while my body fashioned its physical being. And then, suddenly, here he was – Benjamin, the fruit of our partnership – the image of God birthed into the world! I had tapped into the Holy Spirit expressing His Joy in that moment and rejoiced right along with Him!

The Bible credits Joy as being the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Joy is the nature of the Holy Spirit, an expression of God’s personhood. Joy is the fruit that permeates my life as the Holy Spirit expresses himself in our relationship. This was the Joy I experienced when my son was born and it transcended the realm of human emotion.

One of my favourite scenes in the Bible describes Jesus being “full of joy through the Holy Spirit ..” (Luke 10:21)

Seventy-two disciples had just returned from an assignment, and they too were full of Joy as they reported to Jesus how it all transpired : “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name!” they triumphantly declare.

Jesus was pleased with their report and celebrated with them. I can imagine Jesus and his friends laughing and dancing around and ‘high-fiving’! But I believe Jesus’ response went deeper than simply being emotionally pleased with his disciples’ ministry success.

The Message translation puts it this way:

“At that time, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. ‘I thank you, Father, Master of Heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.’”

Jesus explained to His disciples that the Joy they were experiencing at that time was not due to the fact that they had power over demons. Rather, the source of their Joy was their union with God – “your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20). God was delighting in seeing “Satan fall like lightning from heaven…” (Luke 10:18), from seeing people set free from bondage, and the disciples’ spiritual union with the Father meant they were conduits of that Joy themselves.

Over the years Joy has become my familiar safe place.

It is the anchor that exists well below the waterline of my emotions. It is something rooted deep within my spirit that is not subject to the ebb and flow of circumstances that sway my world to and fro. Whether conditions are blustery or calm, whether the sun is rising or setting, whether the destination is in sight or I’m bobbing around in limbo, my life stays the course because it is anchored by Joy.

Joy is multi-coloured. It is saturated with hope, with contentment, with assurance, and with strength. Joy cannot always be explained. It by-passes human reasoning and taps into something eternal and spiritual. Joy is a deep knowing that despite the reality of the circumstances in my life, all is well with my soul. I have found that Joy may express itself through happiness, through singing and dancing, through exuberant triumph – or through peace and serenity. And, for the one who has committed their life completely into God’s hands, Joy can even express itself in the midst of sorrow (Job 6:10).

Humanity thinks a lot about Joy around this time of year. We see it written on cards, displayed in decorations, sung in songs.  Christmas gives voice to the source of all true Joy.

That first Christmas, an angel came to some terrified shepherds on a Judean hillside and declared, “I bring you good news of great Joy that will be for all people … a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10)

That Good News was God’s Joy spilling out over the earth as His redemptive plan for his much-loved humanity began to unfold. He was issuing an invitation to all of us to come into a personal relationship with Him through the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I pray that all who sing ‘Joy to the World’ this Christmas will truly enter into that deep spiritual union with Jesus.

May we all experience the profound essence of Joy that will paint each season of life in the richest of colours, and be that anchor of hope whatever the circumstance.

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