Joy, when you need it most

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. — James 1:2

Sometimes it's the photos that are blurry and candid that capture the most joy. Here I am with SBF Coordinator Dennis Kiprop in 2011.

Sometimes it’s the photos that are blurry and candid that capture the most joy. Here I am with SBF Coordinator Dennis Kiprop in 2011.

What does joy feel like? For me, it is a feeling of expanse and effortlessness, an emotion that fills my heart and soul. Joy opens me to experience something that feels bigger than I alone.

Thinking about these positive emotions of joy, it is difficult to believe that the tests in my life should be moments of joy. James calls us to feel happy even in the midst of challenge, when we are most tempted to ignore God and ignore the joy of the Lord.

The song reminds me that, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” And it is in times of test that I need that internal strength.

joy_nastee_nevThis may be an easier idea to read than to put into practice. When I feel unsafe on the road, or when I experience sickness, I don’t naturally think to consider joy.

But when I remember, when I am able, to consider joy, then the darker thoughts get pushed to the side. I can cultivate joy in those tests by talking to a friend or loved one, by connecting with the larger world, by remembering a past moment of delight, by recalling a beautiful place where I’ve experienced joy, or by putting on a good song and dancing.

Del writes about feeling joy and the power of God in us: “In this quickening power, let me be aware of God’s divine grace activity with awe, wonder and expectancy. Thus the outer condition or negative relationship is dispelled in the light of Spirit. I will practice and exercise this being still, letting go and letting God be God in me, through me, as me.”

That power of God’s joy in us and that privilege to be co-creators with God are available to us when we turn occasions of trial – occasions that, in our human experience, seem despairing – into occasions for joy. 

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4 Comments on "Joy, when you need it most"

  • Barbara Neighbors Deal says

    Love this, Tanya!

    One thing I have discovered in these long years of caregiving for those I love…..that for me there is a difference between “happiness” and “joy.”

    Happiness is hooked to the externals of life. Happy to see a long absent friend. Sad when that friend leaves. Happy when everything turns out perfectly for a dinner party for friends. Happy when a goal is met. When the one I’m caring for has a good day or gains a new skill.

    But joy…, on the other hand, has nothing to do with anything that happens “to” me. Happiness “happens.” Joy IS. Joy is our natural state.

    Regardless of the circumstance, that joy, like an artesian spring, is always bubbling up. This discovery comes with a challenge to awareness….to turn attention from outward circumstance to the inward reality, moment by moment. It becomes quite literally true and life-giving: the joy of the Lord is my strength….

  • marsha johnson says

    Guess what, Tanya! This is exactly what I needed to ponder this morning, and I’m also grateful for Barbara’s insight above. It’s always moving and inspiring to read Del’s words, too. He most often used typical words, but somehow his Being ordered them in new ways, although I can’t remember the last time I used the word “quickening”… a word and concept I am reminded to welcome more regularly.

    Thank you for your always thoughtful entries.

    Love, smiles, blessing and hugs,


  • Jerry Elmer says

    I would define joy as the opposite of despair. Paul designated it as one of the Fruits of the Spirit, and, as such, a gift from God. Thus it is, as Barbara has said, not dependent upon outer circumstances, but rather lives within those so blessed by the Spirit. A free gift from the Lord which is always there, it only requires acknowledgment, not acquisition per circumstance. Blessings and peace.


  • Tanya Cothran says

    This is a great discussion! Thank you all for your input. Barbara, I love the distinction between happiness and joy. Jerry, I appreciate the reminder that joy is a gift. Marsha, I’m always pleased when the right words come just at the right time!

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