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Joy to the world. But I’m not feeling it

Pondering the source of joy over the pots and pans

I don’t know how you are feeling, but I know how I have not been feeling. I haven’t been feeling joyful. And that bothered me.

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I’ve been wanting to feel joyful – especially at a time of year when joy to the world trumpets from Christmas cards and pulpits. Again, I don’t know how you are feeling, but perhaps you’re on a similar joy quest.

My wife Amy and I share looking after our young daughters. Every week, we alternate days of who is at home or at paid work. Tag teaming.

On one of my home days, I was doing the dishes after lunch as my two-year-old daughter was having her day sleep.

Cleaning breakfast bowls and coffee cups got me thinking about how I wasn’t feeling joyful, even though I have so much to be joyful about. Sure, doing the dishes has never registered on anyone’s Joy-o-meter. But go back to the bit about how I was in the same place as my sleeping daughter who is a ray of sunshine better described as a rainbow.

I live in a beautiful place with a beautiful family. We have enough money for food, rent, Wi-Fi, babyccinos and many other delights in life. I have “jobs” I am motivated by – as a husband, dad and an Eternity writer. I’ve got mates; I’ve got beer; I’ve got a church I am invested in. I’ve got a balcony with a leafy outlook. Best of all, I’ve got meaning thanks to God and his most meaningful son Jesus.

So don’t get me wrong. My not feeling joyful is nowhere near the same thing as not feeling happy or content, two responses to my life which I know well.

“Joyful” wouldn’t be at the top of their list of “Things To Say About Dad When We Are Asked.”

But joy? Joy is not a way of living that radiates from me. Maybe you’re the same, for more than happiness, joy is a rich delight in something or towards something. Joy is like happiness with depth, breadth and texture. Joy strikes me as a different level or facet of contentment.

I know you must muse about such definitions of joy as your pots stack up and spoons drip dry. Also at the sink, I listened to a sermon about joy by American preacher Francis Chan. He spoke helpfully about Philippians 4 and its “rejoice always” statement: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Yes, that is a challenging yet inspiring declaration. Rejoice always in the Lord. Say it again … Rejoice!

Chan mentioned what his daughter said during an interview when she was asked to describe her dad in one word: joyful.

Joyful?! Are you kidding? That’s awesome and intimidating. I’d love it if my daughters one day reply with “joyful” when talking about me. That would say so much about me and how I relate with them (and, hopefully, everyone else).

For now, “joyful” wouldn’t be at the top of their list of “Things To Say About Dad When We Are Asked.” And I’m not even having a go at myself for not showing or feeling the sort of joy I’ve seen in other people. Maybe you are one of those people. You constantly beam or are more welcoming than Christmas pudding or raise your hands high when singing at church or only seem to speak positively about just about everything.

I’m not busting a gut for that sort of joyfulness because I don’t think joy could ever ooze from me in such a geyser of glee. I’m not that kinda guy. I’m a dishwashing joy-thinking kinda guy. But I am convinced joy could be more obvious, constant and aflame in me.

I’m more and more convinced of this because Jesus is. As you probably already know – but it’s taken me awhile to get back to – Jesus offers joy. Remember Jesus explaining about being the vine and his followers being the branches (John 15:1-5)? Part of the reason he let us know how anyone who believes in him is powerfully linked to him is “so that my joy may be in you and your your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

Whoa! The joy of Jesus can enrich those who are united with him. And my joy – or your joy – can be complete.

I can thank God for the joy Jesus already bestows in me.

I read John 15 during my recent journey into joy. Talk about a joy jolt. That just increased my joy craving, which led me to rediscover something I had embarrassingly forgotten. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. In that well-known list of what blossoms in anyone who has the Holy Spirit, joy comes straight after love, followed by peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.. Um, yeah. I really should have remembered that.

I was talking to one of my colleagues about this and she summed up all this joy stuff that I have been doing dishes too. I really should have just gone to her first. Anyway, she pointed out that the fruit of the Spirit isn’t something to strive for. As if, if I try really, really, really hard to be more joyful, I will be. That’s not how it works. Instead, fruit like joy comes naturally because of the vine that the branches are grafted into.

If Jesus is that vine for me, then my branch will bud with joy – all I need to do is remain part of the vine. Being linked with the source of joy, Jesus, means I don’t have to hope I will have joy or I will feel it or I will manufacture it. Joy IS part of a Christian’s DNA … I just need to nurture it; cultivate it; find ways to water and fertilise it, so it flourishes.

I don’t know what joy will look like as it ripens in my life. But I do know that I don’t want to get in the way of it blossoming. Instead of pondering at the sink about how I’m going to drum up some joy in my life, I can thank God for the joy Jesus already bestows in me. And keep praying for more and more of that joy to blossom as I cling tightly to the vine.

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