Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing. Proverbs 10:28
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. - 1 Peter 1:8-9
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

You're Not Too Much or Too Little For God

I chose to write about joy because it's probably one of the fruits that has confused me and frustrated me the most. To be perfectly honest, for a long time, I thought that joyful people were always peppy, loud and having fun. When I first came to college, I was very much an introvert and shy and did not see joy as an option available for my personality. But, fortunately, the fruits of the spirit are not limited to specific people, but all that are children of God. 

I have seen God manifest joy in my life very differently depending on the season I was in. At times, I've seen joy look like having fun, being myself, and choosing to enjoy life even if it wasn't perfect. I've seen joy look like excitement for the future and passion for the present circumstances as well. All of these manifestations of joy are awesome, but the one that always confused me was joy in suffering.

False Sense of Joy

I've come to understand a new depth of joy as the Lord has shown me what it looks like when my circumstances seem entirely void of joy. Initially, I thought that joy in suffering looked like hoping in an outcome that hasn't yet happened. If you're waiting on something or dealing with pain, you probably understand what I mean: you come up with a solution in your mind that would make things better and then your joy comes from hoping and praying for that particular solution to become reality. 

It's Because We're Children of the Most High

But that's not it. I don't think praying for solutions is bad, but I think if joy will only exist in me if this specific circumstance happens, then I don't have true joy at all. So what is true joy in suffering, then? To me, it's been a quiet confidence that everything is going to be more than okay. That God has a life of abundance for me and not one of just surviving. That God sees every tear, every hurt, every thought and emotion and makes it His mission to bring goodness out of it. That I'm fully protected and taken care of even when I don't feel like it. And because I'm surrounded by Him on all sides, I have complete freedom to be myself and enjoy life because He says you're going to be okay. And we all know that hearing, "you're going to be okay" from someone who can't make anything better isn't that helpful - but if you're told that "you're going to be okay" from the One who is entirely in control of what happens to you, it makes a difference. There is a surge of hope and excitement for the limitless possibilities of what an abundant life looks like to God. Who knows where He'll take me? But He's God and I'm His child so it's going to be incredible.

Prayer

Holy Spirit, take me to new heights and new depths. Let joy come abundantly in my life. Let me embrace joy when it's easy and when it's difficult. Let me never turn away joy because I can't take it seriously. Allow me to let go of my expectations of what joy must look like and let me embrace what it truly looks like when You pour out joy into my life. 

- Michele Houston