February 1, 2007

His tune in my head

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit in my ladies Bible class. This list of qualities describe someone who is filled and controlled by Jesus Christ, not living according to their own wants and wishes, and relying on their own resources. The list is from Galatians 5, but each quality is amply discussed, described and commanded throughout the Bible.

Love comes first, for as 1 Corinthians 13 says, without it, there is nothing else. The next one is joy. My verse today is short and simple, “Rejoice always,” from 1 Thessalonians 5.

In the early years of being a Christian, I had trouble with high and low emotions. When things went well, I was wildly happy, but falling into a pit was not far behind. After a time, I decided this was not healthy and determined to level out. Only lately am I realizing that my choice was not the best either.

When our class studied the topic of joy, I asked the women if God was a happy God, and gave them some verses to consider. Two of the ladies noticed from those selections that God has strong emotions. His joy is exceeding; His anger is called ‘wrath’ and all other passions are described with gusto.

I’ve thought about Jesus in that regard too. He made a whip and drove the money changers from the temple, told His disciples that all heaven rejoiced over one sinner who repented, and wept with those who mourned the death of Lazarus. I’ve no doubt He was constantly filled with the Holy Spirit, but that did not stop Him from expressing emotions, sometimes with exuberance.

The other thing that our class discussed was the nature of this joy from God. We agreed that its source is the One who lives in us. When He feels joy, we should also feel it. I think of how my heart jumps a little when a sports team wins and goes wild at the end of a game. I feel their joy; how much more should I feel the joy of God!

I feel His sorrow too. Jesus wept with those who wept, and tells me to do the same thing. He became angry at those whose hypocritical religious rules mocked the true meaning of loving God, and I often feel strong emotions about the same thing.

The two shortest verses in the Bible are these: “Jesus wept” and “Rejoice always.” There is nothing ‘level’ about the emotions of God, so I’ve concluded that to try to feel level all the time is to deny Him expression. Certainly I need to be filled with Him, not myself. The fleshy, untrusting, old nature has plenty of anger, angst, and even an excited joy that bursts forth when it gets its way or defeats someone else, but those are not God’s emotions. I need to express what He is feeling, not my own fleshy stuff, but also, I need to know the difference.

The joy of the Lord is that deep sense of giddiness that I belong to Him forever, that He loves me without reservation, that He is in total, absolute control of everything and knows exactly what He is doing. It is a strong delight in all that God is, knowing and being happy just because God is God—and I am not.

The other reality about joy is that no matter what is going on, it is always there, like that tune that won’t go away, or that artesian well that cannot stop bubbling. Even in sorrow, even in anger, or grief, or the very deepest burdens, when my heart is free from itself, His joy is always present—because He is always present—and that is the reason I can obey this command to rejoice always.

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