By JESS WHITE
I ventured out on a run. As my feet methodically hit the pavement, my mind turned inward, and not on productive thoughts. To put it bluntly, I was worrying, fretting, and moping. I regret to admit that the argument could easily have been made that I was throwing myself a pity-party. And I knew better! I knew about the command to “rejoice always,” but I didn’t feel like rejoicing. For about 15 minutes of my run, I allowed my thoughts to run rampant. With a jolt, I realized the underlaying current of what I was choosing to do. Philippians 4:4-7 makes a clear statement that if you are rejoicing, looking to God in trust and with thanksgiving, then the peace of God will be with you. By making the choice not to do those things, I was both willfully deciding to not have peace and also clearly making the choice to cut off access to joy. I was essentially saying that my feelings trumped what the Word of God actually said.
As the Holy Spirit revealed the underlaying doubt I was allowing into my heart, and the seriousness of my disobedience, I quickly changed course. Rather than continuing to throw a pity-party, I began to think about Christ. Hebrews 12:2-3 says to, “[look to] Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” If you aren’t considering Him, you will grow discouraged and weary, but by considering Him, we too can find the strength to live life with joy.
This brings up an interesting point, joy isn’t an emotion that is constantly gushing out of our lives without us having to think about it, or something that is naturally present without Christ’s enabling grace. That isn’t to say that joy can’t become an ever-present fruit that is always available and growing in our lives—because it can be! However, just like a physical garden needs to be tended to produce abundant fruit, there are certain things we need to do to cultivate this fruit of the Spirit in our own lives. As we choose to consider Christ and what He did for us, as we turn our hearts thankfully to Him, and as we look to Him in trust, we are also making the choice to “grow” the sweet fruit of joy.
Do you want to understand how to better cultivate the fruit of joy in your life? In the upcoming Set Apart conference, Eric Ludy’s session on being “Joyful Every Day” will explain how to find a happiness that lasts beyond our circumstances. Join us at the conference, or via simulcast, if you want to learn more about how to base your life on the Truth of God’s Word, rather than the flippant nature of your feelings.