Looking For Threads Of Joy
It’s been one of those weeks.
It’s the type where so much is going on that I felt like my brain had to fracture into five parts just to remember everything I needed to get accomplished. It’s the type where I felt like the enemy was seeping into all my thoughts, trying to get me to abandon truth. It’s the type that made me make big deals out of things that don’t really matter and sleep became elusive as my brain wouldn’t shut off. It’s the type that has left me exhausted, spent, and more than a little apprehensive about starting the next week in case it’s anything like this last one.
I hate these types of weeks. Partly because I don’t feel like myself. I try to be the type of woman where life doesn’t catch me off-guard, but when it does, I quickly adapt; the type that seeks the positive; the type that can easily fight off the enemy’s schemes. The superhero of the crappy week, so to speak.
But the bigger reason I hated this past week so passionately, is that it felt like my Joy kept running out.
Looking back over my week there were so many moments I was either scrambling to scratch off the million items on my to do list or I was internally battling against the lies of worthlessness or forgottenness or ineffectiveness. So that when I had a moment to breathe, to look up and look around, I felt very little Joy. And I definitely didn’t feel like rejoicing.
What was wrong with me?
Here I am, a believer, one who truly wants to know God and diligently does her best to seek Him. Someone who knows a lot of truth, and tries to devote her life to helping others know Him too. And one week can do me in? One uncomfortable, busy, filled with spiritual attack week can steal my Joy? Should that even be possible?
No. I don’t think it should.
So if you don’t mind my friends, I’d like to take our last blog about Philippians and delve into those questions a bit. For those of us who’ve had a tough week or a tough season or just need a little momentary encouragement, these words are for us.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul spends a great deal of time focusing on Joy. So much in fact, that I believe it’s the theme of the letter. And while Paul was communicating instructions and commands and examples for how to live, he was weaving through it threads of Joy. You’ll see it mentioned many times in our four short chapters:
- 1:4 - “always offering prayer with joy...”
- 1:25 - “ know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,”
- 2:2 - “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
- 2:18-19 - “...I rejoice and share my joy with you all. And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”
- 4:1 - “...my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown…”
And as I took a closer look at these threads, I wondered what it meant for the tapestry Paul was weaving as he sat down and wrote this letter to the church at Philippi. It seemed to me that through the chapters, joy was a connector that Paul used to bind together all the rich wisdom he was giving them for their lives. It also seems like Joy was something the Philippians would be able to grasp with familiarity and be able to use to weave their own Gospel-driven life.
This tapestry of wisdom was meant to be a guide for the Philippians to follow. And you guessed it, it’s a guide for me and for you as well.
So I dug in and began to tug at the threads and study the tapestry. And as I studied Joy, I made a few observations.
Joy is something we just have, not something we grasp for or lose or is stolen away. If you look at the above verses, Paul speaks from his own Joy and points to its current existence in the life of the believer. Notice he doesn’t say “when you feel joyful” or “when you get some joy” or “the days you have joy.” Instead he urges the Philippians to tap into the joy they already have received as “saints in Christ Jesus,” the joy of salvation.
It reminds me of Romans 15:13:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”
I think Paul in this letter to the church in Rome was connecting for us that believing in Jesus results in a joy that is internal and permanent. One that comes from really knowing the Gospel in the person of Jesus, His death, resurrection, and our salvation as a result.
And if that is true, then my Joy’s existence isn’t contingent on me and my circumstances, as I so often think it is. I think before studying Philippians I would see Joy as a mood or temporary mindset that was conditional. So last week when I didn’t feel Joy, I thought it had gone missing like that lone sock from the dryer or my keys when I need to get out of the door quickly.
But the truth is that even though my terrible week made me feel spent and void of rejoicing, it didn’t mean that I lost my Joy like you lose a sock or your keys. If Joy comes from our belief and salvation, then that’s impossible. Joy’s origin is in the Gospel, and I have it because Jesus gave it to me. Therefore, I can’t do anything to lose it.
Which brings me to my second observation....
Joy has to be nurtured. So Jesus did His work in giving us permanent Joy, but there are times, like this past week, where I may not feel the depth of that Joy. I think it is then that we need to look internally and see if we are doing anything to stop the growth of Joy in our lives.
Paul writes in Galatians (another letter - do I get extra points for using as many of Paul’s writings as possible in this blog?):
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives. What that means is that since we belong to Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit working to grow and nurture Joy (along with lots of other wonderful things) inside of us. But, we have a responsibility to live by the Spirit or keep in step with the Spirit in order for our fruit to grow, which means not living according to the flesh and its passions and desires.
So even though I have Joy permanently within me, I may not feel the growth of that Joy if I am in sin. Basically choosing to live according to my own plan, or mistreating others, or neglecting to be obedient to what God has asked me to do, or whatever sin is present can keep my Joy from being nurtured by the Spirit.
And I saw that this past week when I felt like my Joy was running out. In the space of the busy terrible week, God gave me lots of opportunities to trust Him and His timing and to choose His completeness over the completeness found in others. And honestly, I didn’t always trust Him, and I didn’t always choose Him. And, you guessed it, it was those moments where my poor choices kept me from feeling the Joy that was already there.
And, that brings me to my last (and my favorite) observation about Joy:
Joy is meant to be shared. In the verses in Philippians where Paul talks about Joy, he points out that he wants to share his joy with his people in Philippi, and he hopes they want to share their joy with him (2:18-19). And he also calls them his Joy (4:1).
I get the sense that a lot of Paul’s Joy was manifested in his people. That his deep love and affection for all the churches he had contact with and the people that made up those churches resulted in a whole lot of Joy. It’s as if the Joy he received from Christ, that was nurtured by the Holy Spirit, grew exponentially through the interactions he had with all the brethren.
I love this because I really truly love my people - my “sisteren” in the pursuit of Jesus - the people that God has graciously given me in this life. And I know what Paul is talking about. Because my Joy doubles, triples, quadruples when I’m with my people, when we talk about Him and what He is doing in our lives, when we get to commiserate and rejoice together, when we share our Joy with each other.
And, honestly, even though I was very Debbie Downer earlier about my week, you can trust that it wasn’t all bad. There were bright and wonderful moments. And always for me, the brightest moments are the ones spent with my people.
One moment in particular I got to go on a walk with a very dear friend where I got the privilege to listen about her life and the tough season in which she has found herself. And as she relayed the trials and the hard choices, I got to share my Joy as I pointed out truth and how I had seen her obedience and godly perspective.
And in that space my Joy was full, it was overflowing.
Shared Joy results in Joy that is felt, and I think it makes even more sense when we look at Paul’s words in Philippians 2:2:
“make my joy complete, by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
Basically Paul is saying that as the Philippians were unified pursuing God, that his Joy would grow to completion. Did you get that? Paul’s Joy wouldn’t be complete until the Philippians were living lives where their Joy would be nurtured as well.
That means that not only is Joy meant to be shared it HAS to be shared. Our Joy can only be complete as others are seeking to complete their own Joy through living out the Gospel in their daily lives. It’s the definition of the symbiotic relationship, and it reminds me of our theme for Philippians: When we live out the Gospel, our Joy is made complete. Not only for ourselves, though, it can mean completeness for those around us as well.
These threads of Joy can weave into the tapestry of our lives a level of completeness that is lacking in the world at large. They can give meaning to a rough day, a terrible week, and a hard season. So that is what I am choosing to do with weeks like this last one. I’m looking for the threads.
“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook