Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.
One of the more wistful aspects of getting older is watching common phrases fall from usage. (Those of you on the younger side of life, be forewarned: the new stuff is seldom as good as what it replaces.) We used to call excessive surpluses “bumper crops,” alluding to abundant harvests that overflowed the capacity of truck flatbeds and required farmers to tie extra bushels to their bumpers. Bumper crops of any kind—produce, jobs, medicine, movies, etc.—were always greeted happily, because they meant there was plenty to go around. Those who couldn’t find or afford certain items in limited supply enjoyed them along with everyone else when favorable conditions yielded bumper crops. (We called too much of a bad thing a “scourge,” another agricultural term.)
Joy often comes in bumper crops. When times are good, our vines burst with joy. We can’t give it away fast enough. Then, in tougher times and harsher circumstances, it seems there’s no joy to be had. Shortages of joy, however, are unnecessary in any season. They indicate we’ve forgot joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22). It can grow independently of natural considerations if properly nurtured and cultivated. Like the Psalmist above, we can call for joy and the key to this is monitoring joy’s growth from inception to harvest.
Sow in Tears
Psalm 126.5 assures us, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (KJV) During hard times plagued by tragedy, disappointment, and depression, tears we shed normally precede blessings of joy. We can’t forget this. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1.2 tells us, going on to trace joy’s life cycle. Tests build faith. Faith develops perseverance. When perseverance finishes its work, we are “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Therefore, joy testifies to maturity and well-roundedness—confidence in God’s wisdom, mercy, and ability to bring us through our trials, to teach us invaluable lessons from them, and to transform present sorrows into future joys. Joy is always present in the believer’s life. If not in fruition, it’s developing and can always be found. Knowing joy is there—waiting, growing, blooming, and ripening—permits us to summon it at any stage. And while it may not yet be available in its fullness, it’s being there brings comfort and strength all the same.
Sweeter as It Grows
Like love and peace, joy is a summer fruit. It remains dormant, nestled in our beings to survive wintry chills that would destroy it. During these periods, we persevere. As our seasons change, joy breaks forth in bright colors. Yet it’s imperative we remember blooming joy is a delicate thing, a precursor of far more substantial, satisfying fruit. If we pull its blossoms, we deprive ourselves of the richness to come. The same holds for the early days, after the petals fall and we start to feel joy increasing in weight and size. Joy gets sweeter as it grows. Impatience to taste its pleasures before it ripens will bring bitter tastes and indigestion. We allow joy to mature, carefully feeding it with strength we draw from faith in God’s promises and prayer. We shelter joy’s presence with God’s presence, surrounding it with His light and the warmth of His love. “You fill me with joy in your presence,” David writes in Psalm 16.11. God’s joy in us makes our joy grow. And observing its beauty as it develops—its metamorphosis out of sorrow, its initial flurries of radiance, its gradually taking shape, and its ripening fullness—brings joy of its own.
(Hat-tip to davis for guidance to Psalm 96.12 in a recent comment.)
Watching joy grow through its various stages brings joy of its own.
(Tomorrow: Cultivating Peace)