Periodically, you run across a person in life that for whatever reason, inspires you more than others. Some people call the reaction "chemistry." You just click. It's a feeling caused by your personal value of them. This reaction is meant to prompt goodness. (Among healthy relationships it does. We'll talk about victim/bondage relationships another day.) Because we are creatures who respond to pleasure, when we figure out a way to get the reward, we repeat the action. I have many friends, but recently the Lord allowed one of my friends to show me something about HIM that I hadn't fully realized.
God has emotions...
I'm your classic, emotional artist/musician. So, in efforts to stay in control of myself and not flip out in a destructive Van Gogh way, I've done a lot of study and research into emotions, so I've known for a long time that God is very in-touch with his emotions. If you're just starting to get to know God, remember you're created in His image. Yes, he is Almighty. Yes, he knows the end from the beginning. Yes, he can squash anyone like a little bug! But he doesn't use his power willy-nilly like that. And just because he has power, prestige & position, doesnt make him immune to emotions. What breaks your heart, or makes you happy has the same affect on him. Perhaps not the same things, but the emotional response is absolutely identical. The scripture is full of God expressing his emotions. God sings, cries, feels jealous, gets angry, laughs, and enjoys life. Don't reject him, cheat on him, or talk mean about him. Not because he'll squash you like a little bug (though he might. I guess.) But because you don't want to cause him pain. He can be a wonderful friend if you'll engage in the "dance of friendship." The dance being moments when you learn not to step on each others' toes, where you learn what makes him happy, or annoys him. And might I add, that in the "dance of friendship" the goal is never to teach, but instead to learn. One who enters any relationship with the intent to teach is indeed selfish. All healthy relationships are about LEARNING how to please, help, encourage & uplift.
After hitting some life-turbulence, I was thrown into the nasty arms of depression. (Divorce has a way of doing that. As it should since its a spiritual disturbance.) After about 2 years of this overwhelming sorrow & defeatism, I read a book called, "Happy For No Reason." And it was the perfect tool to pry me from the bottom of that terrible pit. I was doing all the things I knew to do; like pray, read my Bible, attend church, be active in ministry. But the book added some new habits for me to start practicing; like smiling, thinking thankful, deliberately banishing hopeless thoughts with hopeful ones. I had assumed the spiritual habits would create an emotion to spark the smiles, thankfulness & hopeful thoughts. But it turned out to be the opposite; when I started the purposeful behavior the depression began to release its hold.
But all this time I still had not attained an outright "joy." Now, for a Christian this is a big deal. Because "joy" is a fruit of the spirit, so it's often referred to as a "sign" that a person is not allowing the Spirit of God to work if you don't have joy. My relationship with God is not a side issue, back-burner, conscience-soother to me. To me, my relationship with God is PREEMINENT! If that's not in its proper place of "perfect" then NOTHING is or can be right! PERIOD. (By the way, "perfect" doesn't mean that I'm perfect. But rather that the relationship is in a progressive state rather than a stagnant or regressive one.)
The scripture is clear that the joy of The Lord is my strength. So for all this time I've been aware of a lack of "bubble and sparkle" in my emotions. And though I've truly been aware of healing, that lack of joy has concerned me.
"What am I doing to cause God not to put his joy in me?"
"Why won't God give me joy?"
This worry moved far from the place of "I need joy." To "Something must be wrong with my relationship with God."
So, now lets jump back to my starting story about my friend. In an effort to lift & encourage them, to show them I valued them, when they responded positively, I found myself "strengthened" to further attempt to please them. It was the classic lab rats reward system at work! A simple return of a smiley face, or an "lol," and I was inspired to do more!
That's when it hit me...
The joy of The Lord is my strength!"
Or, "I am strengthened when I give The Lord joy!"
When I seek first to meet the needs in HIS kingdom, when I set my affections on things above I can see how God needs HIS needs met. When I give HIM some loving it gives HIM joy, and BAM! The natural result is that I gain strength and inspiration to further repeat the actions that give HIM joy!
Honestly, my own selfish inclinations blow my mind! All this time I've been so focused on MY need for joy, I haven't been able to see HIS need for joy! While I do still believe that I too will have the literal emotion we describe as joy, I'm aware that it'll never come from seeking joy. It'll come from GIVING joy!
I'm thankful and excited!!