SGC Women: May Your JOY be full!
My name is Joy. It's actually my middle name; my first name is Elizabeth. There’s a long story about how I came to be called Joy instead but suffice it to say I’ve been called Joy since the second grade. Joy is as fine a name as any other but there’s something about it which I have found somewhat difficult to live with. Most names are just names, but my name carries with it a certain, presumed persona; my name suggests that I should be joyful. All…The…Time.
I didn’t notice this much until I got into high school. It was then that I started to get comments about it. “Hey, you should be smiling; your name is Joy!” Factor into this situation the reality that my resting face is not a smile. I really wish it were but it’s not. You only have to look at the Facebook photos from Steve’s ordination service to realize that fact! (Although the vows Steve took were solemn).
Perhaps I’ve thought about joy more than the average person because of my name. There is an innate desire in me to live up to it somehow. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose, as the Bible speaks of joy quite a bit and God commands it from us. This is his will that we “rejoice always” (I Thessalonians 5:16, Philippians 4:4). He also tells us that abiding in Him is the the way to experience full joy (John 15). I have found that to be true in my life. When my focus is on what Christ has done for me then I am filled with joy; how could I help to not be? God chose me from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), plucked me from my darkness and futile existence and transferred me into his kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). What about this wouldn’t produce joy in me? God secured for me a place with him for eternity and gave to me the record of Christ’s perfect obedience (2 Corinthians 5:21); including his perfect joy! Amazing! I am continually humbled by this fact. While this produces times of joy in me I can’t say that I feel this joy continually. I aim to experience it more and more but, like everyone else, I can get caught up in straining to find joy most often in my circumstances.
Towards the end of our time at the Sovereign Grace Pastors College a prophetic team from the Sovereign Grace Church in Knoxville came to pray over each of the students and their wives. At one point, as the team prayed for us, the following was prayed over me:
“Father I sense that there is something significant about Joy’s name. I sense that you want her to know that her name is “Joy” to remind her that you take joy in her, you delight in her.”
Wow! I had never met these people before; they would not have known my life of grasping for joy. All this time I thought my name had to do with my joy but here it was, the whisper to me that really all along it was about the Father’s joy. There it was, the answer to my dilemma. I will never be able to live up to my name. I will never be perfectly joyful though the reasons stated above should make me so. BUT God takes joy in me simply for his own good pleasure. That’s a bit of a mystery. It’s easy for me to accept that I am a wretch deserving of wrath because even the small part of my heart that I am aware of I can see is wretched. But to accept that God delights in me is harder; it requires faith to take God at his word; it requires humility to accept that he could feel this way about me; it evokes worship to think about how intimately and lovingly he is acquainted with me; and, as you may have guessed, it produces joy in me to think of it even now as I write this post.
Dear sisters in the Lord, your name doesn’t have to be Joy for the Father to delight in you. He does. Why else would he send his only Son to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law on your behalf and then to absorb every drop of wrath that should have been yours through his Son’s sacrificial death? Why else would he be committed to you for all of eternity promising to never leave you nor forsake you? We can experience joy by remembering the joyful love of the Father for us. And be sure to remember this: His joyful love for us is not dependent on us experiencing joy by us remembering the joyful love of the Father for us. Yes, that sentence is confusing...but it is purposeful. You may have to read it couple of times. :)
May your joy be full!
P.S. - Just after I wrote the draft for this blog post I arrived at church to hear the worship team practicing this song and thought about how well the lyrics affirmed what I was trying to communicate. If you have 8 minutes to spare, listen to this powerful song before moving on with your day.