Shortly after our youngest child was born, my dad called me in the labour/delivery room and said, “She will always be a joy to you.” Susanna was only two when her grandpa died, but I have often told her that his words are his blessing, his legacy to her. Our baby girl is now 25. Her friendly nature, funny antics, devotion to her family, and passion for her career as an Early Childhood Educator all bring joy to me and many others.
Joy is the word that God has impressed on my heart for 2020. We all struggle with times of sadness, loss and anxiety-producing situations. It can be all too easy to focus on our difficulties, rather than on the good things in our lives.
When we say, “It has just been one thing after another,” we are generally referring to negative situations. What if we were to turn our emphasis around and focus on the positives? What would it look like to purposely walk in joy?
Paul lists joy as one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
How do we acquire the fruits of the Spirit?
Fruit takes time to grow. On this cold, snow-laden Canadian winter day, there is no sign of life on the trees or bushes. In the months to come, weather conditions will change, warmth will return and fruit will appear in its season.
For fruit to grow in our lives, we need the right conditions. The Holy Spirit is always in the process of softening our hearts and whispering words of guidance and love. We learn to trust and worship him, and to convey his love to others. Fruit grows as the Holy Spirit does his work.
Specifically, how do we nurture the fruit of joy?
Focus on Jesus
Our Sunday School Christmas concert in December focused on the joy that accompanied the birth of Jesus. The children’s natural exuberance reflected that joy as they sang and performed the actions to their songs. God calls us to have child-like faith. We can rejoice all year long in the assurance that Jesus was born on this earth in order that he could pay the price for our sins, and offer us new life through faith.
As the season of Easter approaches, we can also focus on how Jesus handled adversity. Hebrews 12:2 gives us a clear example. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, Berean Study Bible). Jesus felt emotions. He rejoiced, grieved, even wept. He also knew that the end result of his suffering would bring great joy as he accomplished his purpose on earth and defeated death and sin on the cross. Our trials can’t compare with his, but Jesus understands our pain and offers us a joy that comes through our relationship with him.
Focus on the Positive
In 2020, the year of 20/20 vision, bookend your weeks and days with the positives. We can change the focus of our vision from one negative situation after another to one answered prayer after another. Each day brings blessings. My father left a legacy of joy to my youngest daughter. Our heavenly father gives us joy as our legacy, a gift that will change our lives if we allow it to.
Joy! My word for 2020! I am excited to see the joy this year will bring for us all!
Ruth Ann Adams is a high school English teacher, mother of five and pastor's wife. She has been published in anthologies and magazines. Ruth Ann has a passion to bring God's encouragement to others. She loves cats and British history. Her blog, 5 X Mama, can be found at ruthannadams.com.