My heart hurts and feels bruised by disappointments and relationships. I trudge through the same routine over and over again. I’m weary of white. Of the threat of water in my house if I wash a load of clothes or use the shower. The feeling of failure looms over my ability or inability to wife and mother well.
It’s in these moments when I need my relationship with my Father God, even if I’ve been distant with him. Friendships have felt dangerous due to recent relationship rejections. And I hold myself together by sheer will and search for joy.
You develop a friendship only to realize weeks or years later that it was false. And realize that it’s like a trick pack of gum kids use on one another and wonder if relationships are worth it. But as difficult as relationships are, we need them to develop joy in our lives.
Partly because we’re instructed to bear one another’s burdens, to share sorrows as well as joys. Our lives need relationships even when friends bruise our hearts. I’m drawn to people like a moth to a flame even while I toy with the idea of disavowing future relationships.
I love people. I want to know if you’re a morning or night person or if you like to shop or hate it or if you’re a hopeful pessimist or a realistic optimist. What sorrows and joys have you lived and what has scarred you and how have you healed. Do you like coffee or tea or neither?
You’re interesting before I even meet you, but I wrestle with fear of you too. Rejection is a possible outcome.
Fear and curiosity tussle within me. Sometimes fear wins and I sacrifice myself on the altar of your approval. And other times curiosity wins and the security of God’s love propels me forward. And sometimes I move forward with fear dogging every step.
Joy and Our Walk with Christ
Joy and our relationships relate to one another. We get to live this life as a believer and follower of Christ in community, not in isolation. And it’s in community that we learn to choose right actions, to temper our responses to reflect Christ, and to share the joy of the Lord.
We contribute joy to another’s life when we refresh others, and when we live our lives in ways that honor the teaching we received about the Lord.
Paul and John write about this throughout the New Testament. He references how his hearers bring him joy when they give themselves to the whole of Jesus’ teaching and their lives change.
We bring joy to our mentors, friends, teachers, and spiritual directors when we choose God’s way over ours. His ways don’t always make sense, but when trusted and implemented, bring about joy and lasting change that we could never accomplish on our own.
Who’s teaching have you benefitted from? Do you have someone in your life from whom you receive spiritual direction and teaching? Bring joy to them by living your life according to God’s standards and righteous ways.
Joy spreads. As you learn from a sound biblical teacher, you teach others as you live your life. Whether you realize it or not, there is someone who learns from you. You need others who are a few steps ahead of you and a few steps behind you. And this joy that comes by living lives that reflect the love of Christ become like the spreading ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond.
Relationships: difficult and painful, but oh so necessary. Joy: complex and simple, but contagious.
And just as we affect joy in other people’s lives by how we live our lives, we also bring joy to others as we refresh each other.
Joy and Refreshment
Refresh indicates a restoration, a renewal, and a revival. Do you need your spirit revived? Is life dragging you along and you question whether or not there’s more than this, whatever this may be?
Extend joy by sitting with someone in their sorrow and rejoicing with them in their triumphs. Offer the refreshment joy brings by extending kindness and mercy, overlooking an offense, and extending forgiveness.
When we reach out to someone, our hearts receive refreshment, and the joy overflows and affects the lives around us. We sit with someone in sorrow and we rejoice with someone in their triumphs. Refreshing others brings joy to our hearts.
Let’s hold to the truth that joy comes from a relationship with its source: God. But as a byproduct of receiving that joy, we get to refresh others and be blessed ourselves.
Consider how your life affects someone else’s and take a small step to bring them joy.
Pray: “Lord Jesus, you are my rock, my comfort, my everything, and my joy. Let me live a life worthy of your calling. Lord, I surrender my will and my ways and submit to your transforming power. Let your joy flow from you and to others as I live for you.” Amen.
I bought fresh blueberries the other day. They tasted a bit tart at first, but then gave way to sweetness. Living with joy in our lives is a little like eating blueberries. It can be a bit sour as we choose joy in the midst of harrowing circumstances. But as we obey, God’s joy overflows into our hearts and brings an indescribable sweetness.
Galatians 5:22 gives us list of fruit of the Spirit and joy comes right after love. Love motivates and joy sustains. At the moment, I’m covered in snowdrifts and spring with its green growing plants seems so far away.
It’s easy to judge our lives based on what our physical eyes see and then feel disappointed when we don’t see what we want to see. But much of the good that comes out of our lives happens below the surface of what our eyes see. That’s because it’s in ours hearts where change occurs as we yield to the Holy Spirit.
In my flower bed, I have wild-growing yarrow. It’s no respecter of boundaries and creeps into my grass. Imagine if we allowed joy full range into all areas of our lives? The difficulties and the pleasures.
To rejoice when we’re overcome with sorrow tastes bitter, but the bitter turns sweet as we choose joy. But this is the trick–we grow frustrated when we attempt to conjure it up in our own strength. It doesn’t work because it feels fake. And then we develop a wrong belief about it because it’s tainted by our own effort and strength.
But God is full of joy and delights to share it with us. He is joyous and he provides all we need for this life in the thin place. But how do we grow joy in our lives? How do we stop relying on ourselves for it and letting our circumstances dictate it?
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’re grafted into God’s family. We become part of his family tree. And as we stay attached to the vine and trust God’s process of transformation, we will bear fruit. Even when it seems like no growth takes place. Even when life is bitter.
John 15:1-17 tells us how to have complete joy and that’s by abiding in Jesus. It’s absorbing all the nutrients and allowing him to prune us. It’s yielding to the growth process by remaining in him.
The key to growing this fruit in your life is remaining in Christ. Allow him to be the gardener of your heart and stay close to him as he grows you. We do not drift into maturity. We determine to cooperate with the power of God that is within us on our way to maturity.
It’s in this place of abiding, that we find the most complete joy we could ever know. Jesus asks us to obey, to remain in him, and to love. As we do these three things his joy becomes complete and we know complete joy.
Life is full of troubles, agonies, and sorrows. It’s also full of beauty, fun, and laughter. To live life with joy, we must cultivate its fruit in our lives. As we abide in Christ, we produce fruit. We will also experience pruning so that we produce even more.
I know what it’s like to feel lost amidst the gray dark days of life. We can practice joy by focusing on God’s heart for us. Then by walking with him in that thin place of abundance.
Choosing joy might taste bitter at first, but persist in it. You will see God turn the bitter into sweet and it will bolster your heart.
You can be the brightest gift to those around you because of the joy that’s within you. Cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit to grow you, to guide you, and to produce joy. Rejoice! And again I say Rejoice!
As you obey the Lord, you remain in his love, and as you remain in his love, your joy grows complete. Oh how he loves you!
Joy can be defined as the source of delight.
Read John 15:1-17 asking the Holy Spirit for fresh new insights.
Write Galatians 5:22 on a notecard and paste it somewhere to remind you to remain in the vine.
Choose joy. Delight in God’s goodness, kindness, love, joy, and peace.
We use different filters in photography and post-processing to neutralize a bright scene or enhance blue skies, or draw the eye to a focal point. I have created presets for bringing out the eyes, whitening teeth, and getting rid of pesky under-eye shadows. Presets or filters applied the right way enhance the photo.
While it’s fun to play around with filters in Lightroom or Photoshop, filters used to hide the truth compete with the authenticity and transparency God desires in relationship with him.
Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us that everything is exposed before God, even the things we don’t want him to see or acknowledge to ourselves that they exist in our heart.
The Psalms are filled with raw, unfiltered emotion before God and that’s okay. We must have a way to express the raw, unfiltered emotions that navigating this life stir in our heart.
But, when we’re in the renewal and transforming process, a filter is an absolute necessary in training our hearts and thoughts into new patterns.
When we use God’s word as a filter for our lives, we don’t filter God’s word through our opinion, but our opinion and point of view through God’s word. And if there’s anything within us contrary to God’s word, then we readjust our point of view to God’s, we don’t readjust God’s point of view to fit ours.
We find the steps woven throughout the Bible and while this series includes practical steps to take, there also needs to be a foundational understanding of God’s love for you and your identity in him.
Philippians 4:8 is one of the filters we can use to filter our thoughts so that we generate new thoughts for our regenerated heart.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
I run my thoughts through this filter like I would run my raspberries through a sieve in order to separate the sauce from the seeds. I ask myself if what I’m thinking is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, or praiseworthy. Using Philippians 4:8 keeps God’s word at the forefront of my mind and keep my mind pointed to Jesus’ ways.
When we consider true in the biblical sense we refer to true conduct, sincerity, uprightness, and honesty. We can be totally and completely true and honest with God about our hurts, anger, and frustration.
Philippians 2:3-4 speaks of looking to others interests and not doing anything out of vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.Honorable thoughts are thoughts are are filled with consideration, deference, and fair.
There’s a growing demand for justice in our world, but let’s strip it back to the Greek definition of just which is morally righteous, impartial, and upright. Are your thoughts moral? Impartial? Upright? Or are you finding your thoughts filled with revenge or showing favoritism? Jesus declared that even if we think hateful thoughts we commit murder.
Pure thoughts are innocent and blameless. Blameless. I can’t tell you how many times my thoughts are filled with blaming others for my problems. If you want to break free of the victim mentality that keeps you hostage, start by developing thoughts that don’t point the blame.
Lovely thoughts are thoughts that are friendly toward something or someone. Lovely thoughts are pretty difficult when we’re harboring unforgiveness and resentment towards someone or something. By filtering our thoughts through loveliness, we are made aware of any lingering vestiges of bitterness.
Do you speak well of your enemies or situations or are you full of grumbling and revenge? Commendable means to speak well of. The key to being able to thinking on things that are commendable is replacing a grumbly heart with a grateful heart by focusing on God’s character and presence during and despite the difficulties we face.
The Greek word for excellent refers to goodness of actions and virtuous deeds. Our actions are born out of our thoughts. What you think is how you act. If your thoughts are vengeful, you might just find those words you don’t mean to say, but mean in your heart, to fly out of your mouth like a dagger to wound and maim.
Worthy of Praise
Praiseworthy. Are your thoughts worthy of praise? Eventually, as you filter your thoughts through the other commands in this verse, they will be worthy of praise. Anything that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable and excellent are praiseworthy. But the previous descriptions give color and nuance to this passage.
Paul is calling us to action in Philippians 4:8. We don’t have to remain stuck in unhealthy patterns of thought, but can be set free as we progressively apply these principles to our minds.
Freedom comes by way of walking in the freedom that God made available with Jesus’ death and resurrection. So we practice. Every day. Every minute. Every second.
Then we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do his renewing work in our minds.