a feeling of great happiness knowing Jesus
When I Googled the definition of “joy”, as I did with all the other fruits of the Spirit, I got frustrated. Every single definition included the word “happiness”. I sat for days battling the ideas of joy and happiness and how they compare and differ from one another. I had resolved to think I would have to type some feel-good message about happiness to share with all of you - a message I did not believe myself and was not at all happy with.
As a person who struggles with seasons of anxiety and depression, happiness is often nowhere on my radar. If I am very honest with you, there are days that I sit holding my beautiful babies with tears streaming down my face. Sometimes it is because I feel insanely overwhelmed by life, but other times, the tears just fall. Many mornings, if it were not for uncomfortably full breasts, I would choose to stay in bed and let the older kids feed the younger ones breakfast. And some nights, dinner consists of scrambled eggs or a call to my husband saying, “I don’t know what to do for dinner,” - a phrase that has somehow become code for, “I just can’t tonight.”
In my searching and praying for an understanding of joy, I came across the phrase, “Joy is knowing Jesus.” Tears fell. I finally felt understood. I finally felt like I could bear fruit despite battling sadness and overwhelm.
James 1:2 reads, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” As I started unpacking this scripture, the Lord pointed out a few key things in regards to trials:
- When. Do you understand what this implies? It means that the time will come. It will happen. It is not an “if”. There is not a chance it will not happen. It will.
- Various kinds. That means it looks differently for each one of us, and really, it can look differently in different seasons for us individually. There is not a one-size fits all when it comes to battles.
- Produces. None of it is in vain. There is a reason you are going through the trial. Your struggle will be used for a purpose.
Know what this verse does not say? It does not say to be happy despite it all. Instead, we are directed to remain faithful.
but You are good
When I have experienced seasons of complete darkness, putting on a happy face and hoping it came across as joy was simply not an option. As I laid in bed or went through the necessary motions of keeping my children and household afloat, it was hard to see the glimmer of hope in the future. But, remaining faithful to Jesus, I fixated on Him and that is how I bore the fruit of joy.
Sometimes joy looks like, “Jesus, I don’t feel good, but you are good. Lord, will you lay here with me and help me see Your purpose in this? Holy Spirit, come! Wipe away my tears so that I can see You. Jesus, let me kind peace in Your presence. Father, I need You to help me get through today.”
You see, joy is pressing into Jesus despite the circumstances around you. Joy is recognizing that happiness is fleeting and situational but God is a solid rock that never changes. Joy is knowing that Jesus will save you over and over again because He loves you so much.
issue no. 9
This piece was originally printed in the Spring 2022 Issue of By Design Journal. That issue unpacked the nine fruits of the Spirit, describing how we as believers can bear fruit in our daily lives. Copies of Issue No. 9, the fruit of the Spirit, are still available in the By Design Journal shop!
Alison is the Founder & Editor in Chief of By Design Journal. In each issue, Alison contributes eight thematic devotional writings designed to help readers grow in their personal faith walk. Alison and her husband, Matt, are raising their four children in the beautiful state of Michigan where they enjoy a hot day at the beach or a cool, crisp day at the apple orchard!
Photos by Carly Kristin Photography.