Cambridge terms run for 8 weeks, Thursday-Wednesday, and people here often keep track of where they are in term by marking the fact that we are ‘near the end of Week 1’ etc. There is also the notoriety of the ‘Week 5 blues’ – supposedly because most people are worn out by that point in the term, but find themselves only at the half-way point.
To make the way we relate to the different weeks a little more positive, Siân and I are naming the weeks by a different fruit of the spirit. This is now the end of Week Joy. Here are our reflections.
Siân – Joy is…
…not to be grabbed hold of, but to be received. It is a gift given by God, not small enough or obedient enough to be pinned down, sussed out, kept close. It does not keep one recognisable form, or surface when I most expect it to. I cannot store or quantify it.
….not fleeting, but steady. Joy is not in short supply, gone in a moment; rather, joy comes in a steady stream from God for our hope in him is constant.
…not just felt, but also known. I love the days when I feel joyful in my heart and I see joy in my life. But even on the days when I feel hopeless, joyless, sorrowful – on those days, joy is no less real. Some days I have to look harder to find it, or be willing to recognise it in unlikely places. And on those days, I am thankful that I can read God’s word, where he shows me that joy in real and perfect ways, until what I feel in my heart matches what I know to be true.
….not to be kept, but to be shared. You know that feeling where you helplessly dissolve in giggles and everyone around you can’t help but join in? Our joy should be like that. Infectious. Saturating. Fun. Because Christians are not called merely to keep the Good News, the joyful message of our Lord and God, but to share it. To send it out to all corners of the earth, and to let it spread to the corners of our lives.
Our lives are an in-between place. We have eternity on our hearts, but we can’t quite reach it yet. Suffering now, joy now… and yet glory is still to come. This side of heaven I will not know the fullness of God’s joy, just as I can’t appreciate the fullness of Jesus’ suffering on the cross. A mere taste, a like inhaling the smell of bread while it is still in the oven; your mouth waters, but it is not yet time to eat. Heaven is where perfect joy is, and remembering that is joyful in itself, every single day.
Rachel – Joy rooted in Hope
Joy may be my middle name, but in spite of that, I had a distinct sense of bewilderment when thinking about what it would mean in the context of this last week! I knew that this week would have its fair share of sadness and the mundane and I approached it wondering exactly where joy could and would find its place.
We often flippantly say things like ‘joy is not happiness, joy is more lasting’. But I realised that I didn’t know what form joy would take if not happiness, and what exactly it means to be joyful in the midst of sorrow.
My thought this week is that joy must be rooted in hope. Joy needs hope to be lasting. Hope needs joy to be understood. Joy strengthens hope, and hope flourishes in joy. Joy comes when hope is known and held.
And the substance of this hope is found in Jesus. A hope of new life, hope of an answer to death, hope of mercy and forgiveness, hope of grace without end and goodness known in full.
This week I’ve found it helpful to think on the verses in 2 Corinthians chapter 2 which talk about the ways in which faith in Jesus Christ is like an ‘aroma’, or like the yoghurt plant in Bob Jeffrey’s parable. I think perhaps joy is much more a qualitative difference in being and approach to life than it is a quantitative emotion of happiness. The sorrow and pain that we know and will encounter is not lessened by having joy, for joy is not an anaesthetic. But joy is greater than that, it gives new purpose and new meaning, because it is rooted in a substantive hope.
May the Lord give us more of the grace of great joy, that is the expression of hope.
“Where morning dawns and where evening fades, your bring forth songs of joy”