“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” – Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. But, you might not have thought so a few years ago if you knew me when I wore a perpetual frown and saw life from a “glass half empty” perspective most of the time. Dallas Willard wrote in his book, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, that “Full joy is our first line of defense against weakness, failure, and disease of mind and body.” Intellectually I knew that, but I struggled to see it real in my life. What helped me discover the joy of the Lord?
One of the things that made a big difference was when I began to understand joy as a gift – something God grows in me as a fruit of the Holy Spirit as I give him room to work in my life. To see joy begin to grow in me as fruit involves my daily seeking to know more and more of God and his love for me. It involves reading his word and practicing what I discover there. John 15:9-11 is one of the passages helping me to discover the key to joy is all about living in obedience to God … Jesus said, “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
I also began to discover joy growing in me when I spent time in prayer first thing every day. Praying through the Psalms and then listening for the still small voice of God was a starting point for me. Psalm 126:3 has become another favorite – “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Meditating on that verse helps me remember all the blessings the Lord has given me, enabling me to come with a grateful heart and praise as I pray. And, my biggest discovery? …You can’t sing praises to God and not end up filled with joy! – Judi Brandow, Communications Specialist