Lesson 3: The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy
It is ironic that joy is the focus of our lesson on a week where the world is zoomed in on the devastation that has taken place in Haiti. How can you even begin to talk about joy as you look at the images of bodies in the streets, a crumbled city, and panicked people, whose fear and tragedy consumes their very existence both day and night? Our lesson describes happiness to be the result of pleasant circumstances – so there is certainly no happiness there. But can there be joy? How do we find joy in tough times?
Philipians 4:4 commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” It suggests that we should be in a constant state of joy throughout life. But since we know that life is not always filled with pleasant moments, how are we expected to rejoice in the midst of suffering or despair?
John 16:33 gives an answer:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
These words came from the mouth of Jesus himself as He spoke to His disciples about His impending crucifixion and death. He was encouraging them to find peace and joy even through the loss of their leader and Saviour. It may sound trite when taken on its own, but we must understand that Jesus as a human being experienced loss and grief Himself. He was beaten and bruised. He was abandoned and betrayed by those closest to Him. He was scorned and rejected by those He came to save. He was killed unjustly through no fault of His own. But worse than all of this, He was separated from His father. The One with whom He had spent eternity, seemed to withdraw from Jesus as He hung on the cross with the weight of our sin. Jesus knew grief. Isaiah 53:3 called Him “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” The deepest sorrow that those in Haiti feel, the deepest sorrow that any of us could feel, Jesus felt. And yet He says “..be of good cheer.”
He understands our grief and understands that we must go through it, but just as He promised the disciples I believe He can turn our sorrows to peace and our peace to joy. “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” – John 16:20.
And why should we have this constant joy despite trouble? Because God has promised to supply all our needs (Phil 4:19), because He has prepared a place for us and promised to come back for us and not leave us in our suffering (John14:2,3). Because we can talk to Him at any time through prayer and He will hear us (Heb 4:15,16). Because death is not the end of it when we know Him (1 Cor 15:54) and because there are countless other promises that make joy in Christ worthwhile.
So as we pray for those in Haiti, and for ourselves when we go through our own difficult times, let us remember to ask God to help us to claim his promises, and to give us the true joy that stems from knowing Him.