Devotion for the Week...
It's time for the third installment of our fruit of the Spirit devotion series! If you missed the previous devotions, click to read the introduction and about love.
Today we will look at joy, but first, I want to tell you that I've put off doing a series on the fruit of the Spirit for months because I wasn't quite sure how to write about joy. Not because I don't think Christians should have joy, or because I don't have joy, or because I don't like joy :) No, it was simply a matter of knowing that there are people in the church who suffer from depression and who are sometimes made to feel that they would recover if only they were properly "spiritual." A wonderful speaker named Joanne Goodwin came to our church about a year ago and she talked about when she first started sharing her stories of depression and living with bipolar disorder. She said that there were people who told her she just needed to trust in the Lord for healing...all the while wearing eyeglasses to correct their faulty vision!
I am in no way an expert or a doctor, but it is my understanding that depression is an illness like any other, both beyond the control of the person suffering and able to be treated with medication. I do believe it is possible for God to heal a person with depression, just as He can heal a person with diabetes or cancer or bad eyesight, but the truth is that He often allows us to walk through these things rather than healing us, and walking through something may mean needing medication. So, please, if you think you need help, talk to your doctor!
Having cleared that up, here is our verse for this series of devotions, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22,23). Remember I said before that this is not a collection of 9 different fruit that can be produced in a believer's life, but rather one fruit with 9 sides. The Holy Spirit can cause all 9 to grow together in a believer's life if we are willing to listen and obey as the Spirit prompts us to change our behavior.
Aside from the fruit of the Spirit verse in Galatians, the first verse to come to mind when I think about joy seems like a rather odd verse. James wrote, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). Now, I don't know about you, but I generally don't find that trials of any kind make me joyful! They tend to make me annoyed or sad or angry or scared, depending on what kind of trial we're talking about. There's not much joy in any of that, is there? Thankfully, James explains why we should consider trials to be 'pure joy': "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (vv. 2-4).
In our humanity, what do we usually do when faced with things that aren't going our way? We complain, don't we? We complain and we grumble. Sometimes only a little and sometimes a lot. Sometimes out loud and sometimes only in our own thoughts. Either way, we are focusing on the negative, which is guaranteed to be a joy-stealer. Complaining and grumbling accomplish very little, if anything. They may make us feel better for a moment, but the feeling doesn't last.
Those trials, though? They could be accomplishing something if we'd stop complaining and grumbling about them. James tells us that the trials are testing our faith, which will produce perseverance, which in turn will produce maturity. That sounds like cause for joy!
We are not meant to find joy in the trials themselves. No one feels joy because of an illness or the death of someone they love or financial burdens or trouble at work. Obviously, it is only through God's Spirit that we can consider trials to be joy. If we are focused on Him, focused on enduring those trials while holding tight to our faith in His goodness and His faithfulness, then His Spirit will be at work in our lives. We will develop maturity as believers, and we will find joy even in the hard times.