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“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.”
1 Peter 4:12-13
In Peter’s letter to Christians scattered around the region of Asia Minor, he addresses them and their lives in relation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He writes of the suffering Christians might encounter as followers of Jesus, who live differently from the world around them. He reminds them, in suffering with Christ in this way, they are also able to come to know the great joy in the revelation of His glory. It is sometimes through great suffering that we are able to feel more deeply the joy that follows, that overshadows the pain of the suffering. Joy is not temporal happiness that is felt when we win a game, receive a lovely gift or take a fun vacation. Joy, as a fruit of the Spirit, is that which is felt deep in our heart by the presence of the Holy Spirit assuring us of all we have received from God. Temporal happiness can be taken from us: it is fleeting and impermanent. Yet, joy through the Spirit cannot be taken from us; it does not depend on human or earthly things.
In John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speaking to His disciples near the end of His earthly life, telling them of the joy they will have. “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20 and 22) As I reflect on the joy as a fruit of the Spirit, I am reminded of the children’s song, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” (repeated several times!), then, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart to stay.” That is the joy the Lord brings about in our lives: not a fleeting happiness that comes and goes with ups and downs in life, but a joy that persists even in suffering, knowing that one day His glory will be fully revealed, a joy that is in our hearts to stay—and cannot be taken away.
Prayer for today
Almighty and most gracious God. We give thanks for this day and for the fruit of the spirit that is joy. Bless each one of us with reminders of the love of Jesus and joy that is permanent in our hearts. Help us to endure pain which is inescapable in the course of our lives and to recognize and celebrate the joy that will follow; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev. Lisa R. Neilson
Associate for Pastoral Care and Women's Ministries
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