Spiritual Training Cycle: Unity (wk. 10/13)
My grandfather was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. Raised along the banks of the Mississippi River near Hannibal, Missouri, my grandfather grew up learning how to live off the land. He also grew up learning everything he had was a gift from God. When I would take my childhood summer trips to their ranch in Blanco, he would share those learnings with me. What’s crazy is that some of those memories were locked away in my brain for close to 30 years. While I always recalled shooting guns, catching fish, and cooking what we killed, the memories of my grandfather teaching me about God were stifled. Perhaps 39 years of living for the world forced them into a corner of my brain I couldn’t reach. Then one day, about five years into my faith journey, the dam opened, and the memories came flooding back. I could see us sitting on the back porch eating a freshly picked peach. As we tossed the pits onto the compost pile, I asked him, “Grandpa, why are you so happy all the time?” He looked down and smiled and said, “Trey, the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
It would be another 35 years before I really knew what he meant. Oh, I knew what joy was. Joy was this feeling or emotion of good pleasure. When I would score a touchdown, I would feel joy. When I got accepted to SMU, I was overjoyed. But no matter the accolade, reward, or result, I could never hold onto the feeling. It was like joy came and went in my life. Sometimes it felt absent altogether. When my mom lost her battle with ovarian cancer, I felt an extended absence of joy that carried me into compulsive eating and depression. When I did finally recover, it was back to what I call the “joy cycle.” Joy could be here today but gone tomorrow.
The problem wasn’t my ability to experience joy, it was the source I was seeking it from. My grandfather wasn’t sourcing joy from people, places, or experiences, he was sourcing it from God. And godly joy is built different. Avery Rimiller defines godly joy as, “A feeling of good pleasure that is dependent on who Jesus is rather than on who we are or what is happening around us.” Which is the kind of joy my grandfather needed. He was confined to a wheelchair by a debilitating stroke he suffered leaving him partially paralyzed with limited use of his hands. Let’s be honest, that’s not exactly being set up for life. But somehow it never fazed him, or if it did, he handled it well. He knew that the secret to living a rich and full life was to find joy in the Lord.
And the beautiful thing is God freely gives it to us! There’s joy in the Lord for us to enjoy all the days of our life. Joy comes from God’s Spirit, from abiding in God’s presence, and from hope in His word. When you become a follower of Jesus, you’re given the gift of God’s Spirit, who begins to teach you and lead you to become like Jesus. The result of this journey is the production of tangible fruit in your life, like the capacity to have joy no matter the circumstances. As your spiritual fitness grows, so does your godly joy, which will carry you through your toughest days. Godly joy improves your resiliency in life. No shoes, no car, no job, no vacation, no WOD, no PR can sustain your joy. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength.
Questions for Reflection:
How would you describe godly joy to someone?
When do you experience the greatest joy in life?