Surprised by Joy

This week I have been listening to I Thank God by Maverick City. I found this to be really encouraging at a time when not much seems to be going on. Listening to it brought to mind memories of what God’s done for me in the past, and encouraged an attitude of celebration of His goodness with a reminder that He is not done, but that He continues to work. It reminds me of His promise for the fullness of time, ‘to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth’ (Ephesians 1.10 ESV).

But what really stood out to me in this song is the joy that we have. Last week at Student Retreat, Andy Byers gave a talk on the fruits of the Spirit in which he described joy as the most countercultural of the fruits, but perhaps the most powerful in its effects (disclaimer: he may not have said this, but it’s what I took from the session). This led me to thinking of the place of joy in my life and the strength of this fruit in me at the moment.

I first became a Christian after reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. As soon as I’d finished it I got hold of all his books that I could and that led me quickly to Surprised by Joy. Before I even read it, the title jumped out at me: it was my experience. Part of what took me so long to come to Christ was a fear of rules that would take all the fun out of life. Of course, the surprise was that nothing like this occurred. The surprise was joy, a joy that started to permeate all aspects of my life.

But right now I’m not very joyful. The Christian life has became almost mundane, that’s just what I’m like now. Of course, for many people, this is not a season that we would describe as ‘joyful’. Many have suffered loss, of our freedoms if nothing else, but I have to remind myself that joy is not synonymous with happiness. After my grandad died last year we were of course incredibly sad as a family, especially as we couldn’t get together to give him a proper send-off. But sitting at home with my parents and my sister telling stories about him, whilst it was a time of great sadness, there was joy in that sadness as we remembered him and our past. That is a joy that is far more powerful than any happiness and comfort in good circumstances.

So, to conclude, I ask you to take the time to listen to ‘I Thank God’. Take the time to feel the joy that we have in Christ, to remember the ways He’s changed our past, and to look forward to what He has in store for us. And a final challenge: how can you grow the fruit of joy in your own life right now?