But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Webster defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying. We feel joy in our marriages when things are going according to plan—when our spouses are putting our needs above their own, when they are serving us or choosing kind words over harsh, when they are choosing to demonstrate love to us as our love language dictates. It’s easy to feel joy when life happens as we want it to happen, when nothing challenges our expectations, and life is easy and we’re walking on sunshine. I don’t know about you, but I love those days when my heart is upbeat and I feel as if I’m radiating joy to my spouse.
But what about those challenging moments in life? Can we still feel joy? Can we feel joy when our spouse walks away from us in anger? Can we feel joy when anxiety grips our heart? When that phone call comes? When tragedy strikes? Can we still feel joy when everything around us comes crashing down?
We can’t if we tie our joy to our circumstances. The world tells us that joy is an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good. We have been conditioned to believe that joy is a response to our circumstances, which means if things are not going as expected, we can’t feel joy.
But that’s not what Scripture tells us. Scripture tells us we can have joy despite our circumstances, that we can have joy even on our hardest days.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4 ESV
Scripture tells us joy is the supernatural delight in the person, purposes, and people of God. Notice the key word ‘supernatural‘—this means we cannot generate our own joy, only God can. Delight is choosing to see the positive in everything. We can choose, despite our circumstances, to focus on the person of God. We delight in Him because He is good, He is faithful and loving, He is merciful and gracious. He is our Refuge, our Savior, our Father, our Teacher, our Counselor. He is sovereign over all things He allows in our lives. When we choose to set our minds on who He is and what He promises us over our circumstances, we can find joy in our marriages, even in the midst of the most challenging relational strife.
We know He has a divine purpose to everything He has allowed into our lives, and we know that it is all for our good. He loves us, so He chastens us. The first few times through James 1:2, I didn’t really understand what it meant to “consider it all joy when you encounter trials.” How could we be joyful when we’re walking through difficult circumstances? The two ideas seemed to be in direct contrast to each other. The problem was my understanding this passage. I thought consider it all joy meant keep your chin up. Keep smiling and you’ll be okay. But that’s not what God is telling us here at all. I’ve been through enough trials in my life to understand that joy comes in the refining work He has done in me through the trial. No matter how difficult the situation in front of me, no matter how impossible or how devastating it may seem to me, God has always shown me such beauty on the other side of every single one of my trials. I feel Him changing me through each struggle, and transforming my heart, little by little, closer and closer to His image. There has always been a purpose for every trial He’s walked me through, and through the measure of them, He has grown my faith, produced endurance, and taught me steadfastness. This is where the joy is found in our trials. We should consider it joy that He loves us enough to chasten us and know that if we’re in a trial, He has something absolutely beautiful in it for us. Our brokenness is part of His plan.
And finally, we delight in the people of God. Our Father in heaven knows us so well, He knows exactly who to send into our lives to love us and encourage us, to point us back to scripture and to fix our eyes on Him. The people of God can help us to see God at work, and remind us of His divine plan. Surround yourself with the people of God and you will find His joy.
When we fix our eyes on the person of God, the purposes of God, and the people of God, we can find joy despite our circumstances. Joy in our marriages is not the result by our circumstances, but is rather the choice to fix our minds on Him.
Press on ~ you are loved 💗