I spent all night talking about joy with my Bible study group, and I felt so motivated as I went to bed: I was going to find joy in all my circumstances.
And then my baby girl had another sleepless night.
And as I groggily came down the steps that morning with my two oldest kids who were pretending to be dinosaurs and on an energy level that not even the entire pot of coffee could remedy, I found an array of dirty dishes between the living room and kitchen. And crumbs. So many crumbs…
The last night’s motivation was gone.
We had studied Psalm 100. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth” (verse 1). I wanted to shout, no doubt about that, but it wasn’t for joy, and it wasn’t to the Lord.
Where was God in such a trivial trial as this?
While Psalm 100 calls us to shout to the Lord, I thought of Philippians 4, where we are called to rejoice in the Lord (verse 4). And then Jesus’ words to abide in him, because in him is where we bear fruit (John 15:4). Fruit of his Spirit. Like joy (Galatians 5:22).
I had gotten so excited by the night’s conversation that I was taking off without God, ready to be joyful all on my own. But that wasn’t the point. It’s never the point for me to muster up joy or peace or patience or any fruit of the Spirit. Rather, it’s always about a by-product of relationship with Him. Because it’s his fruit. His glory.
I thought of Psalm 23, an especially special Psalm because it reminds me so much of my grandmother, a beautiful woman inside and out, a woman who loved the Lord and now spends her days unhindered in his presence. There was a point in my life when I had the whole psalm memorized, yet I never stopped to consider how the entire chapter exemplifies the nearness of God. Shepherds don’t shepherd from a distance – they are near their sheep. They are near when they lead, near when they guide, near when they comfort. God is near when he prepares a table for us and near when he anoints. And then, as the Psalmist David writes, “my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5).
The overflow is where joy pours out. It’s where all fruit of His Spirit pours from. Him.
He was with me in the night, with me in the morning. With me always. And that nearness, the goodness of his character, is what causes me to shout. But this time I shout for joy, and I shout to the Lord.
Consider: What do these psalms teach us about God? Spend some time praying over the verses and listen to what God might want to teach you.
Listen: I grew up on music like this, and all these years later, it is still what sings through my mind when I think about Joy in the Lord