Sometimes we have to contend for what is rightfully ours in Christ.
I remember well the season of littles and the days I had to fight for joy. When mashed potatoes stuck to my socks while clearing the table, and two pairs of rubber boots tracked mud onto recently swept floors, and the littlest one threw tantrums so loud I wondered if the neighbours could hear.
On those days, I thought, Where is the joy in this? Where is God in this?
Every morning during the hour before the sun touched the eastern horizon and the house was still quiet, God was so real and present. Then the day started and children whined and argued, dust bunnies mocked me from the corners, and the repetitive mundane lulled me into apathy. How could I find continual joy? How could I experience God in every moment?
Over the years I've learned to fight hard for joy. Consider these 5 ways to fight for joy:
1. Study joy in the Bible
The Bible has much to say about joy. Jesus promised that we would be filled with joy (John 17:13) and that our joy would overflow (John 15:11). The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Scripture tells us that in God's presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Using an online concordance, search every occurrence of the word 'joy' in God's Word. Begin to saturate your mind with the truth about what is rightfully yours as a child of God and ask God to make it a reality for you.
2. Ruthlessly eliminate sin in your life
Joy and habitual sin cannot co-exist because joy is a by-product of walking with God. Ask the Lord to reveal any sin that lurks in the corners of your heart and confess it to Him. Turn from those behaviours that grieve the Holy Spirit and seek to walk in obedience to God's commands. Will we live perfectly? Not this side of heaven. But we can walk in ever-increasing holiness.
3. Give thanks in all circumstances
Joy is unmistakable intertwined with gratitude. When gratitude is absent, we have nothing to offer God, and our hearts wander. As our sacrifice of praise dries up, so does our joy. But those who are grateful for the daily blessings of God - the gifts that come down from the Father of lights - are people characterized by joy. So make it a daily habit to count the gifts and thank God for them. Celebrate His goodness to you. At the very least, we can thank God for our salvation (which turns out to be the greatest gift!). We come into the presence of God with an offering of thanksgiving, and He gives us joy.
4. Remember, joy is a fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22 lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is a natural outcome of walking in the Holy Spirit. When we are led by the Spirit of God, abiding in Christ daily, and seeking to please Him in all we do, the fruit of joy will naturally grow in our lives.
5. Remember, joy transcends circumstances
The world chases happiness, which is always precariously dependent on circumstances. We are happy with things go our way and we get what we want. But happiness quickly disappears when disappointment and difficulties invade our lives. Unlike happiness, joy transcends circumstances. Joy is possible in ALL situations because authentic joy is a gift from God. We can have a supernatural delight in the midst of the most trying of circumstances because God is still good and our future is still bright.
Yes, joy is possible!
Looking back on that season with littles, there was so much joy to be found. I was shepherding little hearts towards the Father, pointing them to His goodness and grace. And kids say the cutest things.
I remember the day we were driving to the grocery store, and the littlest one said from the back, "Mommy, when I was in my bed this morning, I was talking to God."
"What did you say?" I asked her.
"I told Him I was loving Him."
There is no greater joy for this mama than to see her children walking with the Lord.
May you experience joy today, sweet friend. Don't settle for anything less.