One night recently I was getting my 4 year old ready for bed, and it had been kind of a long day. I was frustrated with our homeschool day. I was stressed about work situations for my husband and myself. I was feeling discouraged about ways I had failed that day. I was tired. I was overwhelmed with decisions that needed to be made and feelings of uncertainty of what would come of those decisions.
I can be pretty good at getting past these types of negative emotions … sometimes in a healthy way; sometimes not so much. When I get past them by pushing it all down and bottling it up so I don’t have to deal with them … that’s not so great. However, there are times I actually am able to overcome those feelings with peace and perspective that only comes from the Lord.
This night was one of those nights that I thought I was hiding it pretty well. (Notice I said hiding…not really the healthy way). But my compassionate little boy could tell that I was down.
Now, he speaks very clearly for a 4 year old, and I can almost always understand what he is saying; but I couldn’t understand at first what he was telling me at that moment. It sounded something like “choeyup.” I asked him to repeat it, and it sounded the same the second time. So I tried to just sound out what I was hearing … “cho-ey-yup?”
“Yes!” He nods really big and smiles.
Still confused, I started to say again what I thought I was hearing, and this time, as I said it slowly I realized it sounded like … “Joy up? You mean, like cheer up?”
“Yes! Mommy, joy up!”
Oh my sweet boy who could see the worry in my eyes and hear the tiredness in my voice. I give him a huge hug. I tell him, “You know, I think I like ‘joy up’ better than ‘cheer up’!”
What a sweet reminder to think of the joy in my heart even when I don’t feel cheery.
The next morning I was still thinking about that phrase my little guy used, “joy up.” The word joy is used a lot by people, but what exactly is joy supposed to look like? What does the Bible say about joy? So I started looking up different passages in the Bible that talk about joy, a little joy journey, if you will.
The joy of the Lord is my strength...
The very first thing I thought of was the phrase “the joy of the Lord is my strength,” but even though I’ve heard this phrase a lot, I couldn’t remember where this came from in the Bible. I found it in the book of Nehemiah chapter 8. This is when the Israelites have returned after being exiled, and they are listening to the law of Moses being read. It says they were all weeping, but they were told, “Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
The joy of the Lord … we bring Him joy. Think of the father in the story of the prodigal son and the pure joy he shows when his son returns. God knows we will fail, but He is joyful every time we turn to Him. Yes, I fail, but instead of letting myself be filled with guilt, I look to my Father for His love, forgiveness, and strength. Knowing I bring Him joy just by drawing near to Him … that’s powerful. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
Consider it pure joy ...
The next verse I thought of was this one:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
…which led me to:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Joy … even when it is hard and confusing … joy because of what God is building in me right now and what He still has in store for me.
That your joy may be complete ...
Then this verse … Jesus speaking:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)
For joy to be complete … love God and love others. Not only just love others, but love others the way He does. I think we live in a culture that is very heavy on the importance of self-love and self-care. And yes, there is a place for that. For example, I know I’m a better mom when I take care of myself physically and spiritually and give myself breaks. I also know that when I’m struggling with self-worth, I am not doing anyone any good … myself, my family, or God’s Kingdom … because I’m not allowing God to use me as the person He created me to be.
With that said though, the Bible is so full of direction to love God and love others. From the beginning to the end, over and over, love God and love others. True joy comes not in the good I do for myself; it comes in the good I do for someone else.
All joy and peace as you trust in Him ...
And finally …
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
“As you trust in Him …” As I trust in Him I overflow with hope. This is that healthy way of overcoming negative emotions I was talking about before. When I trust in Him, when I look to Him instead of my own understanding of things, knowing He is good, knowing He loves me, that He forgives me and finds joy in me; when I remember how much He loves everyone around me, even those causing me pain … I “overflow with hope.” I “joy up!”
Thank you buddy for the reminder and for sending me on this joy journey.