For the friend who taught me what truly unshakable joy looks like…
No one made an impression quite like Val.
If you ask her friends, they all say she was the life of any room she walked into. The one who asked everyone how they were doing and genuinely wanted to know. The one who remembered all the little details of everyone’s lives (not so she could gossip but just because she cared). In any given conversation, she would only take up about 10% of the time talking about herself, and for the other 90%, she was completely engaged in whatever the other person was going through. She loved fiercely and without fear. Above all, she had a heart for Jesus. And she was insanely hilarious.
But she was sick.
She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at only 2 years old. In her 20’s she was put on dialysis and told that she would likely only make it another few years. The doctors were wrong.
She lived longer than anyone expected her to. And yet, when the time came, none of us were ready.
Living with Unshakable Joy
Joy is something that’s so often misunderstood. Our minds want to link it to external circumstances. Even in the Christian world, we expect to live with health, wealth, and happiness.
But that’s not the type of “joy” that truly shows who we are and whose we are.
In the face of insurmountable hardship and suffering, the Bible teaches us there’s actually a cause for rejoicing.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
[click_to_tweet tweet=”True joy is a gift–a fruit of our faith and our choice to reside in the presence of the Most High. How do we cultivate and tend it? https://plantingvineyards.com/what-true-joy-looks-like/” quote=”True joy is a gift–a fruit of our faith and our choice to reside in the presence of the Most High. How do we cultivate and tend it?”]
Joy as a Choice
Hear me out on this: every day, we have the power to choose joy. WE HAVE THE POWER to choose joy.
As someone who has lived with depression, I know that statement may seem offensive to some. If you struggle with depression (or something even more crippling), like so many do, I’m not invalidating what you’re going through. It’s warfare.
But it doesn’t change the truth.
For so long I was deceived into believing that my reality was controlled by depression. That somehow because of depression, I didn’t get to live in the warmth of God’s joy. But it was a lie.
We don’t have to live in bondage to heartache.
We don’t have to be squashed by the weight of anything.
WE have the choice.
Because every circumstance just becomes another trial when you’re sitting at the feet of Jesus. No pit is too deep for His joy to overflow.
How to Have Joy in the Midst of Anything
As we read the opening statement of the passage of Scripture I shared above, we may ask ourselves how we can even begin to develop the ability to truly rejoice in the face of adversity. To live a vibrant and God-glorifying life no matter what–like Val.
But the verses that precede the passage hold a key:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1-2 (NKJV)
- Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice which justified us in the sight of God.
- Because of that, we have peace with God.
- We enter in through faith…
- …into the relationship of grace that we can stand on.
- And we get to experience the confident expectation (hope) of the glory of God.
Our joy wells up from within when we’re confident and secure in what Jesus did and how it changed the trajectory of our lives. From this faith, we are assured that we have peace with God. When we understand this on the heart level, we have hope in every situation. Because WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD. We’ve been grafted in and infused with God’s own precious Spirit.
With this confidence, we know that God has secured our victory for our good and His glory. We’re going to face tough times. Being a child of the King doesn’t mean life on this earth is easy. It actually means we become a target for fiery arrows from the darkness.
But joy springs up out of our faith. Out of knowing that none of the attacks matter on an eternal scale and that we’re never subject to our circumstances.
Where do we get this faith?
Don’t have that solid faith that produces joy in the hard times? God takes care of that for us too.
As Hebrews tells us, He is the author and perfecter of faith. He’ll teach us how to live our everyday lives trusting in what He says. As He proves Himself to us over and over again, we begin to trust. Trust causes us to enter deeper and deeper into our relationship with Him. The more we submit to Him, the more we begin to see joy (and the other fruits of His Spirit) appearing in our lives.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
The key to so many kingdom principles is belief. When we believe, HE fills us with joy and peace. It’s all by the power of HIS Spirit. Our part is relying on and submitting ourselves to Him.
Joy as a Gift
Are you a mom like me?
If so, think of how much you love to give your children gifts–to see that spark light up their eyes and the smile spread across their faces.
God takes delight in giving His children gifts too, and the ability to overflow with joy in the midst of a storm or immense pain is most definitely a gift. But it’s up to us to receive it. Ask Him. Listen for His voice with hope–the confident expectation of good. As Romans 5:5 says above, our hope won’t lead to disappointment. We can rest in the assurance that when we seek His truth, He’ll reveal it to us. And our choice to abide in His truth and His presence will produce fruit.
Then we’ll be able to find joy in every day.
A New Perspective
If there was one thing that seemed to be the theme of Val’s funeral, it was that she inspired everyone to want to live differently.
When you talked to Val, you didn’t think about her illness. She didn’t let you. Instead, you enjoyed yourself. You felt loved. You saw the glory of God. To know her was to know you had a friend, no matter how long it had been since you last spoke.
Her life and the joy that she lived in was inspirational. More than that, it pointed to God. She would gladly tell anyone about her relationship with the Lord. It was Him who supplied her with strength and made her so full of life even though death could have easily been a dark cloud always looming over her head.
Her life showed me there are no excuses. No circumstances that are too big. No amount of pain can negate it.
The joy of the Lord wins.
It’s our choice to dance in it.
Until next time,
New here? This page will help you get started!
Sharing is caring! Like this post from Planting Vineyards? Pass it along by using the social media share buttons below.