C.S. Lewis wrote,
“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.”
(Food for thought. I love that man.)
What brings you joy in your life?
For me, being home alone brings me joy. I’m an introvert, naturally, so Dan and Madeline could leave town for weeks and I still wouldn’t run out of things to enjoy by myself. I could read! Watch movies and TV shows that I’ve thought about getting into, but really, who has time for that? I could catch up on sending letters and cards! I could take luxurious bubble baths, bake things, go shopping, write, exercise, and paint my nails! I could fix all the things that need fixing around this house of ours, I could MOP – it would be glorious! I could open all the windows and let it get really cold in the house; I could light all the candles and listen to whatever music I wanted, as loudly as I wanted with no ESPN or Dora the Explorer in the background!
Sometimes Dan will come home and say, “I think it would mean a lot if I went to so-and-so’s football game tonight. Is that okay with you?” I have to try really hard not to sound too enthusiastic. YES! THAT’S GREAT! I SUPPORT THAT IDEA! STAY AS LONG AS YOU NEED TO! GO BUILD THOSE RELATIONSHIPS, HONEY!
All of those little pleasures in life bring me joy. But the thing is, even if I got to do all those things, and even if they brought me much happiness for a long time, what would I feel when I got to the end of my list – when I had nothing more to do or acquire? Solomon experienced coming to the end of his rope of pleasures, and he wrote about it in the book of Ecclesiastes:
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”
Solomon denied himself no pleasure; he enjoyed extravagant living, wealth, fame, food, wine, a grand home, singers, entertainers, and women for his bed. And after all those things had given all that they could give, what was he left with? A chasing after the wind. I think that Solomon would agree with C.S. Lewis. I think that Solomon would trade all of those pleasures in a heartbeat for real joy. The kind of joy that isn’t dependent on your circumstances – the kind of joy that bubbles up from deep inside of you and causes you to be content.
Joy is listed in Galatians chapter 5 as a “fruit of the Spirit.” Fruit just means “proof” here – so what it's saying is that when you are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, you become joyful! When we're joyful, it's proof that we're filled up with Him.
If you are less than exuberant today, it might be because you’re drawing your joy from something that can’t really satisfy, or something that worked for a while, but has lost it's luster. You might, like Solomon, be realizing just now that whatever brought you joy for so long has left. Has died, has run out of juice, has betrayed you, or has simply worn out. And even if it was a good thing for a while, it's not a forever-thing. And you realize now that all along, even if it was a good thing, it was a poor substitute for real joy.
Take some time today to read the Word, to worship God and commune with Him. Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit, the amount of joy you have in your life is in direct relation to the amount of control the Holy Spirit has in your life. Open up the door to your heart and let joy in!