[notice] A fortnightly column by Anna Heydenrych: the sixth in a series of reflections on the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23)[/notice]The world is a mad place where truth is often distorted. We all live in this world and are all potential victims of these distortions. For example, many of us are under the impression that money equals happiness, and that fame and recognition do too. Even those of us who don’t actually believe this actually do harbor some fantasies about how we will be happier when we have more money and more celebrity.
The reality is, however, that beautiful, talented, extremely wealthy people in our world have been known to take their own lives or to spiral into self-destructive lifestyles brought on by depression that ultimately lead to death. These people must have been terribly sad. And therefore there is no support for the premise that wealth and fame equals happiness. In fact, it all seems like a big, sad lie.
The craving for joy however is a reality. God’s word cites joy as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, obtainable through following the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Joy is the fruit of a life of righteousness. This is the truth.
So we have a lie; Those who are rich, beautiful and adored are happy
And we have a truth; Those who seek righteousness are filled with joy
Key to finding joy
The key to finding joy in our lives, I believe, begins with confronting this lie with the truth. I need to not only acknowledge this truth, but let it permeate every facet of my being. I need this truth to influence my decisions and the way that I think. This is a bit tough sometimes, because this does not give me any allowance for wallowing in my misery about not having the things that I want. It does, however, equip me with the ability to face any situation with the faith that I will not lose my joy.
But what about when really bad things happen, when we face trials that leave us feeling abandoned and hurt? Can joy be present when there is hurt? I hesitate to suppose too much regarding this topic, as I have not had to face the depths of pain in my life that others have. I do want to believe though, that joy is a weapon in such times. In fact James proposed the idea that trouble is actually an opportunity for great joy!
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” — James 1:2
The depth of my troubles in life have not yet given me this opportunity, but I am inspired by the testimonies of others such as missionary Heidi Baker who testify to an enduring joy that never leaves them, even through great trials. Owing to my lack of experience in being shot and thrown in jail and such things, I will rather grant the last words of this week’s column to Heidi Baker herself, with an excerpt from her book, Compelled by Love.
“I have been shot at five times, beaten, thrown in jail, slandered, and had many death threats on my life, so I know a tiny little bit about suffering and pain. But that is not the part of my life that brings God the most joy.
“Of course, we are very ready to endure any and all suffering when necessary. The point, however, is not the suffering itself. The point is obedience and whole-hearted abandonment to God, whatever the circumstances look like.
“Like Paul, we have learned to count it all joy. If you want to export misery, then find another profession! Joy is contagious. If we are not full of Him, we have nothing to offer anyone else. We must become unstoppable in love. Of course, there have been times when I felt pain and discouragement, when I have been sad or tired. Many times I just wanted to go and live in a cave as a “monkess” because Jesus is always wonderful and people are not always nice. Yet, as I focus on the grace and goodness of God, the joy eventually returns.”