Here I am, simple me, thinking that Joy would be easier than Love. NOT! So I begin reading a bit on some of my favorite websites written by those I trust. Here’s what John Piper says:
First, Christian joy is not an act of will-power, but a spontaneous, emotional response of the heart . . . It is true to say that Christian joy is deep and firm rather than superficial and flimsy. The reason we know this is that the Bible describes Christian joy as flourishing right in the midst of pain and suffering. Romans 3:23 says, “We rejoice in our sufferings.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6 says, “You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 8:2 says, “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have over flowed in a wealth of liberality.”
Yipes! This is not a discipline I can build into my life. I can learn to “do” love, but what about joy? I know that I have experienced it. It seems to me to be those “It Is Well” moments in the midst of sorrow or loss or adversity.
I have had two powerful examples of how I have experienced joy in amazing ways in the past three years. I know, twice in three years. But, these are POWERFUL examples of the Holy Spirit producing joy in my life at the least-expected moments. I will try to briefly relate them here.
In June of 2013, I became quite ill with Dengue Fever. Yes, I capitalize it because it is a strong entity in my life. Dengue has four strains, and I was ill with dengue shock syndrome. The main thing is that my blood pressure dropped so low, I was admitted to hospital for three days. I hadn’t been admitted to the hospital in over 30 years, the last occurrence being the birth of our youngest son. There were three things I could still do: SMS on my phone, read Scripture on my iPad, and play music on my iPad. My attention span wasn’t too great and I would often fall asleep during this adventure. I attribute the Scripture reading and the playing of all sorts of Christian music, including Christmas music, as being what gave me hope of recovery and the joy that proceeded out of that hope. God had been faithful over the course of the years, even decades, to teach me that good stuff comes out of affliction. You can read about one of those instances in my initial blog, which you can find here. I was able to relate the suffering I had been undergoing to God preparing our family to go into full-time missions. A very good lesson to learn. The joy of doing children’s ministry full-time proceeded out of that suffering.
In the midst of Dengue Fever, I concentrated as best I could on Scripture. Ephesians 5:19 says, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart,” (ESV). This is what my iPad was helping out with – psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The day after I was admitted, my husband made sure I had the charger. He was very busy with ministry and couldn’t stay with me much, but he made sure I had the tool to bring joy into my life.
The next event occurred while we were in the States. My husband had suffered with Dengue Fever just previous to me, but a different strain. As far as anyone can tell, it seems he ended up with extra cerebral fluid which put pressure on his brain. Over the course of time he developed Bell’s Palsy. Still not too bad of a thing. Inconvenient and frustrating, but not life-threatening. The doctors here in Thailand chose to treat it with steroids. That’s where things got sticky. Evidently he had a reaction to the steroids. Within 3 months he was in hospital in the States experiencing a break down. The night I had to leave him for admittance to the hospital was probably the worst night of my life. I got to our oldest son’s house and literally passed out from exhaustion. I had just endured the most difficult two or three weeks of my life. The next morning I was drawn to God’s Word. I couldn’t get enough of it! I could barely put two thoughts together, but the Word encouraged me that we would survive. Things would be different, but we would survive. The more I read the Scripture, the more hope began to spring in my heart, followed by a sense of adventure and joy. We weren’t sure if we would ever be able to go back onto the mission field full time. However, God had different plans. After 6 months of recovery, we headed back home to Thailand. The pace we at which live is a bit slower, but God is faithful.
These were two HUGE, life-changing events in our lives. There have surely been other events in which joy was evident, but it was such an unexpected thing at those times. It was the Holy Spirit, in and of Himself, producing His fruit.
http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-fruit-of-hope-joy accessed 2 January 2015
The Sword Project Open Source Bible Software [Software]. (2007). Bangkok: Thailand Bible Society.
http://www.thinwithin.org/find-joy/ Accessed 3 January 2015