So yesterday, late afternoon, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t really a vision, though God speaks to me in pictures and this one involved a glimpse of something. And it wasn’t so much a teaching from the Holy Spirit, like complete sentences or “audible” direction, though it included language. It was more like a split moment where God causes my thoughts and images and words to all come together and I catch something.
Yesterday I caught JOY.
No, I didn’t exhibit holy laughter or anything like that. It was more like a theme for October. “Carrie, choose JOY.” And, “For the JOY set before Him...” both came crashing in.
Joy is not happiness. We have, in the West especially, made the “Pursuit of Happiness” a goal of life. We fill our moments with entertainment and leisure, but happiness is a byproduct of the deeper thing called JOY. There is a reason why happiness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but JOY is. We can be happy one moment but sad the next. However, JOY is something deeper, something I can choose even in the midst of grief. JOY overcomes and sustains us, even in the midst of a “cross” season. It is the JOY of the Lord that is our strength, that causes us to overcome the spirit of Heaviness so pervasive in our time.
“The JOY set before me”...
Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to “look[ ] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NKJV
The original context here is persecution. The Jewish Christians that the Letter of Hebrews was written to, were suffering persecution and living the beginning of the great diaspora that caused the Gospel to be spread to all nations. Many were re-counting the cost and not sure if faith in Jesus was worth this much. So the JOY set before Jesus, namely the redemption of His bride and the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of union with her, is why Jesus endured the cross.
I am not facing life-and-death persecution (yet) for my faith. In fact, my faith is really not in question. But what the Holy Spirit is shaking me up about is my pursuit of happiness. That fleeting thing of the moment. And my lack of endurance with the hard things. If I can reword it, it was like He was saying, “Choose the hard things, for the sake of the JOY that will follow.”
Yesterday that meant I cooked a simple meal and went outside and cleaned my patio and strung new lights and set a table with cloth and candles to celebrate Booths, something that had been important to me all year and which I found myself challenged to prepare for this last weekend. I chose JOYful worship while I was sweating in the dust and humidity. And JOY blossomed somewhere deep inside.
So for this month at least, and it may grow into a year, who knows, I want to choose the JOY set before me. What is the Lord setting before you today?