Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped by terrorists and held in the Philippine jungle for more than a year. Hours before their captivity ended, they chatted about Psalm 100, knowing that they may not leave the jungle alive but wanting to serve the Lord with gladness and come into His presence with singing.
Joy: the ability to praise God in a dark place.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s different to happiness because that’s dependent on circumstances. Joy is supernatural, given by God.
I first discovered joy during my illness six years ago. Like Martin and Gracia, I wondered how to serve God when simply breathing took the majority of my energy and concentration. The Holy Spirit brought these verses to my attention:
I was so comforted, knowing I could still serve God when I couldn’t do anything. Each afternoon, I breathily and tunelessly sang praises to God for a few seconds. That was my sole activity for the day. Yet I knew that God heard me and valued my sacrifice of praise.
The seed of joy that God planted in my heart has grown as I’ve cultivated it by practicing joy.
That’s not to say I always feel like praising God. I have days when I’m more miserable than joyful, when patients get on my nerves, things go wrong, or I’m hormonal and tired. Sometimes I text my friend Ali to let her know I’m struggling. She always texts back that she’s praying and reminds me to get back to praising God. I do the same for her. We both find that we usually feel tonnes better if we take a few minutes to praise God in tongues if we can’t find the words in English.
Jesus knew all about joy in dark places too. He urged people who are persecuted for their faith to ‘rejoice’ and ‘leap for joy’. What? Sounds heartless. But Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective and He thinks it’s worth it for the reward. God the Son promised a great reward for those who are persecuted because they love Him.
Jesus Himself went through the crucifixion because of the joy He was looking forward to afterwards: the joy of having you and me as His friends.
Linking up with Little Things Thursday.