Joy That Sticks by Dana Mentink - Retreat 2016
Hello, ladies. I’m so blessed to be bringing you this devotional about joy. I’ve got a great handle on this subject. Every morning I wake up, filled with the glorious joy of the Lord. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
Oh yes, as a new day dawns, I own this feeling. And then I get out of bed! Somehow, I find that my joy doesn’t stick. There are plenty of reasons why. There are the 26 third graders in my class that need to be taught who do not share my educational agenda. There are books to be written for editors who do not appreciate my literary genius. There are teenage Mentinks who need to be taught to drive. There are aging parents. There are diseases, cruel and incurable. There is horror playing across the news. There is grief.
Hmmmm. Now that my feet are on the floor, I’m going to need some help rediscovering that joy. How about you? We’re all juggling too many balls…work, family, health, finances, church obligations. Joy crushers if we allow them be, and too often, I do. That’s the problem. I have God Almighty, the master of the universe declaring I am saved, guaranteeing me eternal life with Him…and still I seem to lose my joy. So what can I do to hang onto it?
Let’s backtrack a minute. What is joy anyway? Here’s the definition I settled on, see if you agree. Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope. It appears 88 times in the Old Testament and 57 times in the New Testament. Joy must be an important topic! But how do we catch hold of it and hang on? Paul certainly had his share of joy stealers. Prison, stoning, persecution. He says in second Corinthians, “That is why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
But here’s the problem. I’m not a Bible hero. When a little boy in my class lost his mother, I could not find peace in that. Watching family members struggle with Alzheimers and Multiple Sclerosis? Where is the joy? Wendy Blight, Proverbs 31 speaker/author caught my attention with her thoughts on the matter. “When trials come, we must evaluate them in light of God’s truths and promises. It’s not the trial itself we consider a joy. Rather, it’s the results that will come from the trial that we consider pure joy.”
Ah! So I am not meant to reap joy from watching a family member struggle with disease…I am to have confidence that godly results will occur in me and through me because of that trial and that will build up my spiritual perseverance.
This involves trusting, being confidant that God is actively working for my good even in the midst of painful circumstances. So we are to find an inner gladness rooted not in our circumstances, but the living God who transcends our circumstances. I think I get it. A dim light is dawning in my brain….but how do I do it? How do I keep that knowledge alive in my mind and heart after my feet hit the floor? When I witness unrelenting suffering? When the bills start to pile up? When my joy seems to be buried again in spite of what I know to be true about God?
Craig Von Buseck, author, teacher, writer for CBN.com says he once asked a friend for help when he was feeling particularly stripped of joy. His friend, to his complete shock, refused. Buseck says, “He must have seen my look of surprise as I groped for words to reply. He quickly added, “The Bible tells us in Psalm 16:11 that ‘in His presence is fullness of joy.’ If you want joy in your life, you need to get into the presence of the Lord. He is the only one who can fill you with joy.”
If I want my joy to stick around, I need to put myself in the presence of God. And how do I do that? In the midst of all those joy stealers, I must make the conscious effort in prayer time, in snatched moments, in the deep breath entreaties for patience during my school day. I must put myself in the presence of my Lord where I remember that there is joy, even when I sin and let my feelings overcome that truth.
But good news, friends! God already knows I am going to fall down on the job and let my fleeting feelings overcome his priceless gift of salvation. How can he forgive me for turning my back on his incredible gift of joy? Because He is constant, His love is gracious, bountiful, unfailing and He is doing a work inside through those trials because He loves me. And He loves you.
Craig Von Buseck was disappointed when his friend wouldn’t pray until he got the explanation. “I was reminded by my friend William that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is not imparted. Fruit grows. Fruit must be nurtured.” So let’s start the nurturing! We do this when we read the Word, encourage our sisters, and gather in groups like this and take time for Retreat. We keep growing it in spite of our circumstances until the day comes when everything will fall away except for that amazing, pure gift of love. Jesus says in John 16:22, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, then you will rejoice and no one can rob you of that joy.”
Joy that sticks. Finally.