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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

What Happened to Joy?

By Ada Nicholson Brownell
Jan. 16, 2011

“Even Your Word agrees, ‘In this world we will have tribulation,’” I complained to the Lord one day. I suppose I wanted to justify the mulligrubs that had me by the heart.

Silent a moment, I felt the agony of depression. Then the remainder of Jesus’ words from that Scripture came to mind. “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NKJV). Joy began to defeat the depression. I was reminded my joyfulness doesn’t depend on circumstances or people, but on my Savior.

After false prophets had led astray the church in Galatia and made them forget faith and grace, Paul asked the Galatians, “What has happened to all your joy?” (Galatians 4:15, NIV).

Paul spoke of joy often, although most of his God-inspired writing was done from a prison cell. Over and over he told the Philippians, “Rejoice!”

I wonder what Paul would tell the American church (myself included) today. I know I can kill joy if led away by false prophets. It would be easy to find someone to tell me to put myself first and seek my own happiness above all, when true joy comes from God and putting others before me.

My family gave their hearts to the Lord in an era when Pentecostal believers expressed their joy with such loud singing and shouting that people from the community peeked in the windows to see what was happening.

Joy, however, wasn’t in a style of music they heard, a red-faced shouting preacher or people’s voices. Joy came from the truths people grasped with their hearts. People rejoiced from sins forgiven, even when it took an hour of struggling against Satan before their wills were submitted to God. People shouted praises and danced in the aisles when they received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, healing in their bodies, victory over fear, victory over habits, restored marriages, loved ones saved, and peace in life’s storms.

Joy bubbled because they knew their Lord would be with them in the valley of death and they would see loved ones again. Christians could get downright rowdy with joyful noise when they remembered their Blessed Hope: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

One night, my unsaved aunt, a young woman with her life in crisis, came to church with my mom.

“I’m lost!” she screamed, interrupting the pastor’s sermon. “I’m lost!”

She ran to the altar, wept, screamed some more, groaned, and put the fear of God in my siblings and me. Faithful Christians gathered around her with prayer rising like thunder. Then joy hit. My aunt shouted and praised God around the altars, then danced and even ran across the platform rejoicing because of hope and sins forgiven.

She was so filled with joy she went to her nightclub friends the next morning, feeling they would want what she found. She lived to the age of 92, still dancing and praising God. My siblings and I never forgot what happened that night and still talk about it 60 years later.

Anyone who serves the Lord with all their heart has a measure of joy because the springs of living water Jesus gives never run dry (John 7:37-39).

I’m praying for the day when our hearts, songs, services and lives once again reflect joy.

In the same conversation where Jesus promised His disciples He had overcome the world, He told them, and us today, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).

Peter spoke of our faith in Jesus filling us with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8, KJV). Joy sometimes came when the early Christians faced seemingly impossible circumstances. Paul knew he probably would lay down his life for his faith, yet he wrote of joy.

Most amazing, Jesus focused on the joy that was set before Him even as Calvary loomed ahead. He “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

In the letter Paul wrote to the Galatians asking about their joy, he listed joy among fruit that comes from living for God in contrast to a life of sin. Most important, according to Jesus’ words in John 15, if we are to bear fruit such as unspeakable joy, we need to be rooted and grounded in Him and His Word.

When I think back to my discouraged prayer that day, I remind myself I need to be growing in my faith and nourished by my connection with my Savior, the true Vine of whom my life is a little branch. With Him in view, joy again grips my soul.

ADA NICHOLSON BROWNELL lives in Springfield, Mo.

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