Last year in one of my college classes we were getting ready to form study groups and I heard a voice somewhere behind me say, “Where is that one girl who is always smiling?” And I heard another voice reply, “Oh Sarah? Ya she’s right here.” This really caught me by surprise – was I always smiling? Nobody had ever described me like that before. Then in my bible study group at church another girl who was praying for me said to God, “We know how much Sarah loves to smile.” Again this comment struck me. I remember how people used to describe me. Since I was in high school I heard comments like, “Oh when I first saw you I thought you looked like a B**** but after I got to know you I started to like you.” In the past people have told me that their first impressions of me lead them to think that I was “stuck-up” or that I just had the classic “resting b**** face” (if you haven’t heard this phrase before I promise it is a real thing). Even my own husband had that impression of me before we got to know each other.
So why was it that people always assumed the worst about me when they first met me? If you would have asked me that a few years ago I probably would have been arrogant enough to answer with: “It’s their problem for looking at me that way.” Now I understand that my “resting b**** face” was due to what was in my heart. I was prideful and selfish and I had very little compassion or mercy for others – what was in my heart came out. And looking back now, it is a sobering reminder that whatever we hold in our hearts is displayed on our face, in our words, and through the way we treat other people.
God has done a great work within me and He is continually making me new. He has given me His Spirit and it is by His Spirit that He is changing my heart. When you surrender your life to Christ you will be filled with the fullness of God.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” Galatians 5:22-23
As we turn our lives over to Christ day by day, the evidence will be in the fruit that is produced by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. So I think it is a good practice to look at ourselves and ask God to show us if we are lacking in the fruits of the Spirit – because if we are then that is proof that we have drifted away from our Lord in some way.
The Joy of the Lord
So in this post I want to focus on the Joy of the Lord. Joy is a gift we receive when we experience for ourselves what it is to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin. The Lord is joy and as He lives inside of us we come to know His joy for ourselves. This is a deep and abiding joy that never leaves us based on the circumstances of our lives. The joy is proof of His presence in us and it is something that we do not have to work for – It’s simply given to us through the Holy Spirit. It is not a temporary, shallow happiness that flees from us the moment something upsets us – It is far greater than happiness of the flesh. The joy of the Lord abides in us as we abide in Him.
When I see someone filled with the joy of the Lord, it makes me want it too! True joy cannot be manufactured – we can try to force ourselves to think positive thoughts and to be kind to others – but the joy of the Lord is beyond what we can try to do on our own. It is a supernatural joy that comes from God. It is a joy that is faithful to be with us in all hardships, and it is a joy that grows as our relationship with Christ deepens.
Do you have it?
So for those of us who are Christians, let’s ask ourselves if we have the joy of the Lord in our lives. What is the level of joy in your life right now? How joyful are we in our work, in our relationships, in our home? How joyful are we when things don’t go as planned or when people are unkind to us? If you sense the Holy Spirit showing you that you are lacking in joy then ask the Lord to show you why that is? I know for me that holding onto idols, or holding onto bitterness, or refusing to seek God keeps me from having His joy. Nothing keeps me away from God like my own pride.
Maybe you are someone who does not know the joy of the Lord yet. I know that Satan has tried to torment me and others with the lie that you cannot be joyful because of some circumstance in your life. Maybe you’ve been terribly hurt by someone, or maybe you feel that you’ve done something that cannot be forgiven, or maybe you are plagued by depression and think that it is just something you have to live with. God promises to give you joy when He fills you with His Holy Spirit. When you surrender your life to Jesus Christ He really will set you free and give you true joy that cannot be taken away.
The fruit of the Spirit in our lives, including joy, is dependent upon our daily surrender to Christ. If we are growing in our reverence for Christ then the joy of His presence should be abounding in our spirits. People will be drawn to the joy within you just as they will be turned away by a religious Christian who has no joy. So let’s ask God today what needs to be surrendered to Him. Let’s ask Him to show us the areas of our lives where we are not experiencing His joy and what we can do about it.