The joy of the Lord is my strength

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
“…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” (Galatians 5:22,23)
Many of us could quote from memory the list of the fruits of the Spirit that every Christian should desire to have in their lives. These fruits are listed in the Book of Galatians. I asked my friends and those who follow this column to suggest to me what the difference is between joy and happiness since I would be writing on joy today. The answers were interesting, thoughtful, complex, helpful, and thought provoking. I followed up on these initial thoughts and looked up various references, verses of Scripture, and quotes by scholarly teachers.

I have always found it interesting to learn how different individuals interpret the same verse, truth, event, pattern, and thought. You did not disappoint. While many good points were made, the majority of the responses I received indicated that happiness is generally based on the “happenings” and circumstances in our lives. We can be very happy at the moment something good happens to us, we inherit a good gift, receive a promotion, win a game, or other such blessing, and perhaps find ourselves very sad when we are in unhappy or difficult places in our lives. Some of my friends think that joy and happiness are interchangeable words and that they mean virtually the same thing.

From personal experience in my own life, I can testify to the fact that joy remains deep within our hearts even in trying, frightening, life-altering circumstances if we have trusted Christ for our salvation, understand a bit about his word and work, and feel confident about our futures. Happiness is more fleeting in my opinion, and can come and go with the circumstances. Even when my husband, Ted, passed away after a seemingly long and tragic battle with the beast cancer, I felt the peace of God in my heart and in the actual room where he died in the hospital.

Several who were there with me that Saturday evening said to me later that it was rather amazing that when the time came and the nurse, with tears running down her face, unplugged the last machine that was keeping him breathing, a certain deep peace and joy filled our hearts. When Ted took his last breath on earth and his first in Heaven, I felt what I can only describe as pure joy, not that he was gone, but that he was whole and healthy again and not struggling to keep on trying. My happiness was shattered and my life forever changed, but joy reigned knowing the promises of God and that I would see Ted again in eternity.

The joy in knowing Christ provides a strength for us in these circumstances that is difficult to describe. In fact, we have a verse that lets us know for a certainty that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Without that joy and strength, one could not get through the experiences that try our very souls. I could make decisions, plans, travel, greet friends of a lifetime, and carry on because of the joy in my heart and soul. I was sad, lonely, at loose ends, and unhappy that Ted was gone, but the joy gave me what I had to have at the time.

One dear lady sent me an excellent writing that said, “We must make a choice to let Christ be our joy, to let him give us joy, and to believe that he will do just that. Only when we find our happiness in the person of Jesus as we rest in him can we experience true joy.” We all realize that the circumstances of our lives can be brutal and that we must depend on and trust the character of God to cause all things to work together for our good as he has promised. The article sent to me by Barbara Winthrop of First Baptist Church of Port Bolivar, added an important line, “Obedience to God is central to experiencing the joy of God.” This joy is indeed one of the “good and perfect gifts” coming down to us from God the Father.

May I ask you if you have joy in your soul and life as the coming holidays get closer? Many are sad and depressed more at this time of the year than at any other. Perhaps, loved ones are no longer here, budgets are stretched, misunderstandings are abundant, and limited time seems to make things more difficult. The best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones is joy in your heart. If you are truly joyful, you will be more of a blessing and help to others and a joy to be around during the holidays or at any other time.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or
brendacannonhenley@yahoo.com

[11-26-2018]

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