Fruit of the Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5: 22-23
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain oy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:10
Today we begin our discussion of the second Fruit of the Spirit, joy. Proverbs 14:13 tells us that “the end of joy is grief.”  So, in defining joy, we know that joy stands in juxtaposition to sadness. The two cannot exist. Joy is associated with happiness, gladness. “Exultation” and “euphoria” are also words that come to mind. Over the next few reflections, we’ll talk about different aspects of joy.  
The Greek word for joy is Hara, and the Greek word for grace is Haris. So, we begin our discussion by connecting joy with grace. Grace is another gift from the Holy Spirit that heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking in each person. The Grace of the Holy Spirit brings joy to us. And when we are in need of joy, when we are sad, we should pursue “grace” in order to lift our spirits. Grace comes through prayer, and through the sacramental life of the church. Holy Communion, Holy Unction, and Confession are three sacraments that we are supposed to participate in on a regular basis. These sacraments bring instant joy when they are received properly. The best way to get a measure of joy when you need it is through prayer and the sacraments. The best way to sustain joy is through prayer and the sacraments.
Joy is closely connected to love, because gestures of love kindle joy in people. Receiving a gift on your birthday or a holiday brings joy, and a gift is a gesture of love. Gifts don’t need to be material in nature. In fact, some of the best gifts I have ever received have been letters that I have received. These are the gifts I treasure the most. Words of encouragement bring joy. A compliment brings joy. It is easy to give the gift of joy. And joy is something we all long to have and to receive.
There are some very dire circumstances where it may seem impossible to find joy. And unlike love, which we are called to demonstrate at all times, we are not expected to be joyful at all times. Even Christ wasn’t joyful all the time. When His friend Lazarus died, He cried. He got angry. He got tired.
However, like love, joy is a choice. We can choose how long we feel down when we are sad and how resiliently we bounce back. We can choose how long we will feel angry before we calm down. And we can choose to find joy even in sometimes difficult circumstances.
Today, actually, marks the three-year anniversary since my Dad passed away. Will I approach this day with sadness or with joy as I remember him? The answer is, I will have some sadness. Because I wish he was still alive. But I will choose to have more joy than sadness as I remember him, how he lived, and how he died as a person of faith.
Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” If you are reading this message, there is cause for joy. You are alive to read it. You have been given a day that has possibilities for joy. Many days, we suffer from circumstances that are not of our own making. However, on most days, we make our own circumstances, we create our own opportunities to rejoice and be glad.
Joy is sustained by grace. Grace can restore joy. Joy is a choice.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)
Choose to rejoice and be glad for today!