Where is the Joy?

It was time to organize the stuff in the trunk of my car. I made sure the spare tire looked O.K. and situated the small First Aid kit. Into a box marked “winter” went the extra blanket, boots, windshield scraper, and jumper cables. Can you tell I live in Minnesota?

But as I closed the trunk, I thought how everything I carried was for those just-in-case challenging travel scenarios. What about packing some things for joy-filled activities? So, I found my old tennis racket and stopped to buy tennis balls and an inexpensive basketball to add to my trunk collection. And I began to stop occasionally at a park after work to hit tennis balls and attempt shooting some baskets. It was wonderful to have equipment for enjoyment rather than only just-in-case items for weather challenges.

This got me thinking about what I carried for my spiritual journey. I had a lot for “just in case” backup measures for those times when I needed help—calling out to God because I know He hears and answers, Scripture to comfort, and the prayer chain among friends. But where was my joy?

While thinking about this, I was drawn to Aksah. Her story is recorded in Joshua 15:13–19 and retold in Judges 1:12–15 (in case we missed it). Aksah is Caleb’s daughter, the Caleb who with Joshua spied out the Promised Land. Years after their expedition, when the Israelites were settling in their new territories, Aksah was also given land. Her portion happened to be desert land.

With confidence, she replied to her father: “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water” (Judges 1:15). Caleb not only granted this request; he gave her the upper and lower springs—springs for wherever her journey took her.

In John 7: 37–38, Jesus declared: “. . . Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” He was speaking about His Holy Spirit’s filling, one of the fruits of which is joy (see Galatians 5:22–23).

On our life journeys, including walking through challenging desert seasons, Jesus invites us to receive springs of joy. “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for being our Savior, redeemer, guide, and strength. In our life journeys, deserts included, Lord, will you also fill us with your Spirit and cause springs of joy to flow? Amen.

Share in His Joy

It was a gray Monday morning. My spirit was dry. My motivation was low. Not a great start to the week.

I sat down in my usual chair and opened the devotional book that has been guiding me through this year. I wrote in my journal, “Week twenty of ordinary time—Stewardship.” I then began to read, while jotting down notes, including some verses from Psalm 115 that I wanted to remember.

As I finished my reading, I received a text from a friend. Although still feeling reluctant to start my day, I began texting back words of encouragement and care. I knew God had given me those words. They were not from me! I was simply a steward of the message He wanted to speak into my friend’s life at that moment. The oil of gladness began to seep into my spirit.

On a gray Monday morning, when I was expecting nothing good, the truth of Proverbs 15:23 was confirmed to me: “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word.” My mood was brightening. God had given me this opportunity to show love to another, words of encouragement to share, and now I was experiencing His joy.

I then looked at a verse I had written in my journal minutes before and smiled: “Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory because of Your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1). Amen to that! God proved Himself faithful to give precisely what I needed to share His goodness with another when I had nothing in myself to give.

“Join Him in His work and share in His joy.” I had written that summary statement about stewardship before the text came. Before my reply. And before I found myself sharing in His joy.

I now gratefully realized that God had helped me steward the moment. I found myself singing,

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

—“Moment by Moment,” Daniel W. Whittle, 1893

With a deep sense of gratitude, I began to reflect further. In my spirit in that moment I heard my Heavenly Father say, “Well done!” I then recalled familiar words from a parable: “Come and share your master’s happiness!” (see Matthew 25:23). I had always pictured that reward as a future event. But I had just shared in His joy in that moment. Could it be that God has invited us to share in His joy both now as well as in eternity?

This is the day that the Lord has given us. May we steward well the moments. And may we share in His joy—today.

Reclaim Your Joy

The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity (see 2 Corinthians 10:3b–6, MSG).

Loss, anger, grief, protest, and heaviness abound around us. Between loss of life, fear of illness, anger at surrendered freedoms, and multiple stories of racial injustice, I am tired. Aren’t you? Social media has been a breeding ground for all of these thoughts and feelings as everyone vehemently shares their opinions. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a break from it all?

Everything screaming at us right now is loudly going against the truth of God for our lives. We can choose loss, or we can believe God has a plan. We can choose fear, or we can trust God is sovereign and all knowing. We can feel trapped, or we can remember our ultimate freedom is in Christ. But how? When the world is so loud, how do we choose stillness? How do we know that He is God in our midst?

Well, the good news is that God is who He says He is, regardless of our emotions or awareness. Sometimes we forget, but we’ve got “powerful God-tools” in our tool belt to combat these feelings; we need to wield them.

To wield means to hold and use a weapon or tool. Two parts: hold and use.

What do we need to hold? My friends, it’s quite simple. We must hold the Word of God in high esteem as the ultimate authority—as the forever-and-always truth for us, our lives, and creation. We need to take it in so that we may hold every thought and emotion accountable to its revealed truth. God’s Word is our lie detector and our truth compass. We need it.

What do we need to use? Our well-trained muscles! We need to lift the shield of faith and use the truth to extinguish the flaming darts of the enemy. With God’s help, we can defend our peace and joy. We can be truth tellers and, ultimately, lie dismantlers.

What lies are you believing? What negative feelings and emotions are you allowing to stick to you? Throw them off, dear one! Tell them no. Lift your shield of faith. Proclaim the truth. Reclaim your joy today.