Running down the side of the house where Karen and I live is a long expanse of verge that, apart from a couple of nice trees, is completely devoid of life.
Well, almost completely.
During the Winter season with its heavy rains the area becomes densely populated with weeds and every Spring we begin the arduous task of killing them off and pulling them out.
The thing I have noticed about weeds is they need no encouragement or help from me to grow! I don’t plant or transplant them. I never think to myself, “Oh, there’s a nice weed – it would look lovely on my verge.” They simply blow in from wherever and with the assistance of the Winter rains, take root and sprout profusely.
In contrast, I know if I am to ever have anything worthwhile growing on my verge, it will require hard work, discipline and patience.
Have you ever noticed in your personal life how bad habits seem to develop almost by themselves whereas good habits require our regular, disciplined attention?
We find ourselves constantly fighting against feelings of negativity and stress – joy and peace escapes us.
Here is an important truth.
Joy is not something we automatically have. It must be cultivated.
Jesus once said to His disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11).
Notice the distinction He makes between them. He speaks of “my joy” and “your joy.” He wants His joy to be in His disciples, and He wants their joy to be full.
In other words, He wants their joy – and ours – to be full like His.
Many believers assume that they will automatically have complete joy now that they belong to Jesus.
But then something bad happens, they do not experience the joy they were promised and their minds experience an enormous struggle. There is a strong feeling that their faith, along with its promise of joy is disconnected from their reality and the depth of pain they are feeling.
Weren’t they supposed to have joy in their trials? What’s missing?
It just doesn’t seem to make sense.
I have been learning that joy is not something which magically switches on in the middle of the testing times of my life. I have found, irrespective of how I feel, that I must deliberately choose joy.
This does not mean I deny the reality or pain of my circumstances. Far from it. I recognize them and feel them but I also make the choice for joy, asking God to both sustain me and give me His strength.
This what Paul means when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil.4:4)
Joy is not automatic – just like a beautiful garden or verge, we must deliberately cultivate it and by choosing it on a daily basis.
And don’t forget – joy is incomplete without Jesus. As you face the stressors of today, pray for God to increase your capacity for joy in a stressful world.
May grace, peace and joy be yours today.