The Women’s Bible Study Group is reading the book, “Here and Now,” by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Each week we take turns leading the discussion of the next chapter. I chose the chapter titled “Joy,” for several reasons. I was in anticipation of finally understanding the true meaning of joy which had been elusive in my long life. I’ve heard and read that joy is not the same as happiness, and that you can be joyful in sorrowful situations. Well…maybe some situations, but in all? That was a very foreign concept that I just couldn’t buy into. As well as, I’ve never thought of myself as a joyful person. I doubt any family member would put that in my eulogy. Don’t get me wrong, I can have great moments of laughter and enjoyment, especially when in the presence of my beloved grandchildren ( the one upside of surviving challenging children of my own.) By nature, I am a worrier and let my anxiety get the best of me (again those wonderful children of mine.)
Nouwen tells us that joy is essential to spiritual life and in Galatians 5:22-23, we read, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.“ Oh my goodness!! That is awesome! How do I receive such blessings? Nouwen states that we must choose joy every day regardless of the circumstances.“ It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God, our refuge and safety for eternity.” In Nehemiah 8:10, we read “ the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy is hope in Christ, not circumstances. I was reminded of the joy seen even on a trash dump in Nicaragua. My dear friend, Vikki, helped me understand that maybe it was the word ‘joy’ that was the stumbling block and I could replace the word with ‘God’!
Joy is living in God’s presence! “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace and trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
A special thanks to Vikki, Sue, and Andrea.