By Karen Joy Robertson
“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). We thirst for joy, an oasis in a desert land.
When I’m walking my daily miles in our neighborhood, I need water for physical strength. For my daily walk with God, I need the spiritual strength that comes from joy.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy gives us energy to love, builds endurance for the long haul of life, and produces God’s perfect work in us.
Joy is a result of a life lived in him, a gift that continues to grow as we grow, a peaceful heart doing the Father’s work, a God-given result of daily choices.
Walk Alongside the Lost and Brokenhearted
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV 1984).
This blueprint for service can seem burdensome if you’re busy working, raising a family, and fitting in church activities. We do our best to survive, hoping for enough “feel good” to produce joy. How can we possibly add ministries to an already overloaded schedule?
Sharing God’s unfailing love with others renews energy, creates strength, and produces joy.
“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours” (Isaiah 61:7, NIV).
Looking for Broken People to Love
I tend to avoid cluttering my schedule with many of the ministries, opportunities, and activities other people would put in my path. Choosing those would exhaust me with an overbooked life. Instead, I choose to stay available for the opportunities God daily puts in my path.
I pray for conversations that lead to relationships, situations where I can put my faith into action.
Loving foster children introduces me to families and social workers with needs. Teaching piano students brings opportunities for counseling and encouraging. I pay attention to the people around me when I go to a baseball game, the supermarket, or McDonald’s—and I talk to them.
Brenda, though repentant, is serving a long and exhausting prison sentence. With God-given knowledge and leadership skills, she spends her days walking alongside the lost and brokenhearted. There is joy in the prison because what Satan meant for Brenda’s destruction, God has used for good. Courageous joy flows through Brenda and it’s contagious.
Walking Alongside Other Christians
“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).
In the parable of the lost coin, the woman who finds her coin calls her friends to share her joy. In my life, good friends are the treasures.
Walking alongside fellow Christians strengthens joy. Joy is the glue that holds the body of Christ together, the caffeine that provides the energy to love others.
My fellow believers are among the brokenhearted, the poor, and the captives Isaiah wrote about—just like me. We help one another level every mountain and hill and lift every valley so the glory of God will appear and others will see it (40:4, 5).
Our life group has a wealth of love born of shared sacrifice. We practice spiritual disciplines together and work to prepare ourselves for ministry.
Putting faith into action can be complicated, confusing, and challenging. My life group is my first line of defense against discouragement, exhaustion, and frustration. We’ve come to believe God handpicked us to walk together. Strength is fueled by the joy of putting our faith into action together.
Our finances had been depleted from ministering to a coworker. Two weeks before payday we needed money for unanticipated travel expenses. Katina unexpectedly dropped by our home to give us a check. Just after payday, it was Katina’s turn to need money for an unexpected trip. This time we had money to share with her: not a repayment of debt, but a sharing of burdens. God could have found another way to provide the funds for each family, but he gave a double blessing, increasing joy and strength through friendship.
We’re blessed by our different levels of Bible knowledge, life experiences, talents, and opinions. Those differences motivate, sharpen, encourage, and teach us. United, we’re not overwhelmed by any person, problem, or circumstance. We are the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus walking alongside one another.
Walking Alongside the Holy Spirit
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Walking in the presence of God strengthens joy. His joy is contagious. The more you have a heart like his, the more joy will flow out of you. David gained a heart like God’s through battles, both failures and victories. Being fitted to the image of God happens as you walk by faith.
We walk with the Spirit when we sit in his presence in prayer and meditate on his Word.
Your prayer life will explode with joy when you discuss your daily life with him, talk over his plans for people, and listen for his response. “He is there and he is not silent,” as Francis Schaeffer said.
Joy will continually overflow from the heart of God and splash onto you when you wade deeply into the Scriptures. He will work in your mind, challenging you to dig deeper into his Words for wisdom, revealing insights and knowledge of his ways. Your spiritual hearing becomes more acute. You’ll find yourself hanging on his every word. As you ponder what he is teaching you, your vision of the world will become more clearly focused, more joyful.
“I’m learning to read my Bible first thing in the morning,” Jackie shared at the prison recently. “If I don’t, sure thing somebody is going to need me to encourage them and I won’t know what to tell them because I neglected my quiet time.”
Recently Jennifer confided, “It wasn’t until I walked the walk that I understood that God is inside me. It’s awesome! I’m so thankful for the prayer and Bible reading I’m doing.”
“You’re like a joy magnet,” my friend Beth told me. “I want that joyful energy. How do I get that?”
Joy will blossom as you live an intentional life of faith in action. Who in your world is mourning, sick, or lonely? Is a coworker going through divorce? Who in your life is crying alone at night?
As you love broken people, you become fully alive to God’s unfailing love. Gratitude becomes a beacon. You become God’s gift of joy to the world.
Karen Joy Robertson is a freelance writer in Columbia, Missouri.
“25 Ways to Pursue Joy in Christ” by Mark Altrogge
“For the Joy that Lay Before Him” by Wayne Jackson