It’s not always easy to live up to a name but especially when yours is Joy. The inspiration of my name came from my godmother, also named Joy, as well as the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. (Galatians 5:22)
I was one of the only Joy’s I knew growing up and sometimes I didn’t always want to have my name. To be honest, I think every kid can struggle with their name and wonder what it would be like to have a different one. Perhaps Diana or Angela, I thought would be a better choice. Still, I kept going with my name, trying to understand and live up to why my parents chose it over other more popular names.
In different seasons of life, sometimes it’s easier to have joy and in others, it’s a struggle. My season lately has left me not always feeling joyful. Although I recognise there have been so many blessings in my life and even in this season, it has sometimes felt like I’ve been robbed of fully experiencing joy and that it’s been hard to smile, truly feeling joy in my heart.
I love that our church is a “come as you are” place of worship. To look at the big warehouse buildings, you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it is a church, and yet every Sunday it is packed out across four services with people from all walks of life, who are genuinely wanting to meet with Jesus.
Besides a long time of singing and worshipping God, there is always a time of response and prayer. People are invited to the front, not because it is more holy but simply because that is the space available. I will readily admit that I have often struggled to get myself to the front of the room. Growing up, I attended a more traditional church and simply wasn’t used to such an open vulnerability of prayer response within a service. But when the pastor specifically invited anyone up who felt lacking in joy or just needed God’s refreshment of joy, I knew I had to go up.
A lady kindly stood next to me and together, we waited for the Holy Spirit to come meet with me. The wonderful thing was that she didn’t need to know my situation but was prepared to stand and support me, lifting up everything in my heart to Jesus. As I allowed myself to become vulnerable, acknowledging that I needed the Holy Spirit’s help in rediscovering joy in my heart, tears started to flow. I stopped trying to hold onto burdens I was never meant to carry.
Another woman also came up and had an image for me. She shared that as amazing as it was for Christ to be raised from the dead, it was also quite a miracle in itself that the tomb was rolled away. Only the power of the living God could have rolled the tombstone away. And Jesus is still rolling away our stones every day, of the unhealthy things we bury deep in our hearts. Through acknowledging our need for Him, we can be made whole and healthy again, so that His joy can penetrate our hearts.
In Psalm 51:10-12, David wrote so beautifully, a prayer that we all need on a regular basis: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” It’s the bit about restoring the joy of salvation, that has really touched me in this season of life. The unknown questions about where my life is going, to be in England or America, the high’s and low’s that come with daily living, are all put into a better perspective when my joy is set on how God loves us so well. My circumstances can fluctuate but Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) He is the constant and when I remember these truths, little by little my joy is restored.
I feel like as I get older, I’m finally taking ownership of my name. Maybe I won’t always feel joy but I can certainly choose to live in a joyful manner, trusting that God is near. And regardless of how difficult life can become, I want to proclaim time and time again over my life from Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
May God’s joy not only be my strength but also yours too this Christmas season and beyond.