I didn’t intend to go in the same order as the verse, but I have been wanting to write on joy since I came up with the idea of matching the fruit of the Spirit up with essential oils that are meaningful to me. In fact, this was the only essential oil I had linked to a fruit at first. I have been very busy for the past two weeks, but this topic has been at the back of my mind and I am very glad to finally have a chance to write it.
First, I need to clarify what joy means to me. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. I see happiness as a fleeting, superficial emotion that is dependent on external stimuli; while joy is a deep well in the soul that bubbles and splashes around playfully, cleansing the mind from the inside. Joy is not constrained by the situation.
I have experienced depression. You would think that depression is the opposite of joy and, in many ways, that is true. My depression was absent of all hope and happiness, but looking back I can see that it was my joy that got me through. I may not have felt it, but underneath all the pain, self-doubt, and hopelessness there was a deep well; still and calm but sparkling and clear. Untouched by the darkness and poison that ran through my mind and heart. It was that joy that prompted me to find one thing to smile about in a week, or in a month. And it was that joy that allowed me to fake a smile and a laugh and pretend to be happy for an hour or an afternoon. It was that joy that eventually helped me to get through my depression and focus on those things that I love and that make me happy. Although I could not feel it, it was there. I am surprised when people tell me that I’m always smiling. I’m still surprised every time, and I get told that a fair amount, so you would think I would be used to it. Even when I felt that my heart would shatter and my face would crack if I had to pretend to be happy; it seems my inner joy was completely bypassing my heart and my face and I was still always smiling – enough for it to be worthy of mentioning by people who didn’t know what lay behind my smile. Admittedly, it made asking for help very difficult. And when I did eventually speak out it came as an enormous shock to those who were closest to me.
I may be projecting my own thoughts and opinions here, but I do believe that Christ did not live a happy life on earth. His life was marked by pain, loneliness, temptation, and inevitability. As Isaiah says:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
- Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)
However, at the same time, he had joy. That joy sustained him and gives us hope:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
- Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
The cross was shameful and painful; but through it Christ had joy because he knew what waited for him after it was done – perfect joy. He is our hope and our joy. Because of his example we can be sure that we can endure anything that comes our way. And because of his sacrifice, after all our struggles are over, we have pure joy waiting for us. My prayer for you as you read this comes from Romans:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Among my earliest memories are family holidays in Mtunzini when we went to visit my grandparents. There was the sea, which has always been my happy place. But the breakfasts always stand out in my mind – an enormous table (at least it seemed enormous when I was so small, now it isn’t actually all that big) with an enormous breakfast that included honey, Granny’s homemade jams (tomato jam is still my favourite), and grapefruits the size of my head (again, my head was smaller back then, but that is still a big grapefruit). Every time I smell grapefruit essential oil my heart is taken back to that breakfast table, listening to Grampa reading that day’s passage from the bible and watching Granny spreading jam on toast. It fills me with joy and contentment like no other essential oil can do.