If you have lived on this planet for any amount of time, you know the following statement by Bruce Cockburn is a reality of life, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” I recently discovered joy is not something I can strive for, manufacture, or create. I literally cannot be joyful on my own accord. But, I can fight for joy. Confused? So was I until recently.
I just returned yesterday from an incredible anniversary weekend with my bride. I surprised her with a trip to New York City. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but the idea came from Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, I was operating out of a place of woundedness. Work was stressful, life was incredibly busy, and what happens to me sometimes is I seek my validation and emotional stability from my bride. You would think after 16 years, I would learn to not turn to her for the kind of emotional comfort only Jesus can provide, but nonetheless, I fell back into that old pattern. Let’s just say I had created an environment of unnecessary tension in our relationship.
Enter The Rescuer:
During this time we had one of those quiet mornings, which happens from time to time when my bride and I are in a place of disconnectedness. I just didn’t know what to say or how make things right with her. As I was pondering what I should do, I prayed “Jesus, I need your help, I have no idea what to do here.” I immediately heard his reply, “Take her to New York.” I was shocked at both his promptness and his response. I knew exactly what Jesus was referring to. Our 16th wedding anniversary was less than two weeks away and Jesus was suggesting I take my bride to New York City for our anniversary.
Now, one would think if Jesus offers a solution immediately after asking for help in a situation, the appropriate response would be like what the disciples did, “at once they dropped their nets and followed him.” So of course, I just said yes, right? Uh, no. I began a negotiation, more like Moses at the burning bush. I rebutted, “Father, a trip to New York is not in the budget.” To which my Father lovingly and graciously responded, “Son, this one is on me, you just go.” I knew he was right. I knew in my heart he was asking me to take a step of faith, to book the trip and he would provide. So I went for it.
When I arrived at work, I shut the door to my office, fired up my computer, and started booking the trip. With every key stroke, I could feel joy bubbling up in my heart. Oh how long had it been since I felt true joy that comes from the Holy Spirit! Along the way, I asked Jesus, “What hotel should we stay at? What Broadway show should we see? What else should we do while we are there?” He answered every question. I was doing this all in faith and it was exhilarating! Pure joy was flowing from my heart!
The best part came next. After booking everything (and by the way, I got an incredible last minute deal that was not a budget buster after all) I checked my cell phone and there was a pretty long text from my bride regarding the current state of our relationship. Talk about timing! She said some honest and tough things to me, which I needed to hear (one of those texts every husband loves to get when Jesus speaks directly to us through our wives). I simply replied, “You are right, and I have a surprise for you tonight.” When I got home things were still a little tense, but she had softened since she received my text. I initiated one of our favorite rituals when we have a surprise for one another. I had her ask a series of yes and no questions about what the surprise was. And you know what? Everything I picked to do was exactly what she said she wanted to do. I picked the right Broadway show (The Lion King), visiting the statue of Liberty, and staying in Times Square (thank you Jesus!). Talk about Joy unhinged! At that moment, all was well and the joy in my heart overflowed!
Enter stage right; The Fight for Joy:
I wish I could tell you everything was wonderful for the next couple of weeks leading up to the trip, but the fight for joy came and with fierceness. The enemy was furiously opposed to our joy, to this trip, to us celebrating our marriage. The sprinkler system in my yard mysteriously started leaking and I did not discover it for two days. My oldest daughter started coming down with what looked like strep throat two days before the trip. I dealt with some really tough situations at work. It became clear to me this trip was opposed. The enemy was trying to steal my joy. You see, this is very important to understand when it comes to joy…the enemy HATES joy and especially joy initiated by Jesus. Friends, the enemy does not admire our joy or our marriages or anything from our Father. He despises us, despises our marriages, despises our faith, and he fights against it with all the forces of Hell. Oh yes friends, the enemy is fiercely opposed to our joy. Remember what Peter said, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9, NLT). So what must we do? Fight! Fight with all you have, in prayer, with the power of the Holy Spirit, and with a band of brothers alongside you!
I prayed the daily prayer, I put on the Full Armor of God to thwart the enemy’s attacks, and I asked my brothers on the E6 team to pray with me. I knew this trip was worth fighting for. But most of all, I fought for joy. Until all this unfolded, I never truly realized I had to fight for joy. But how it was worth it! My bride and I had an incredible trip and experienced lasting joy and memories. Our Father poured out his joy on us throughout the entire trip. On the drive to the airport we consecrated our trip and oh how Jesus answered our prayer! Nothing went wrong, not a single glitch. The flights were on time, our room had an enchanting view of Times Square, visiting the Statue of Liberty was flawless, we got a bonus trip to Ellis Island, and the Lion King was the most incredible show we have ever seen. This was truly an experience of joy for us both that is forever seared into the deepest parts of our souls.
In a Desiring God post in which John Piper explores joy, Piper quotes Jonathon Edwards (see the full post here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-most-libertating-discovery).
“God glorifies himself towards the creatures [in] two ways: (1) by appearing to…their understanding; (2) in communicating himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying the manifestations which he makes himself…God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in…
[W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it…He that testifies his idea is of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation (admiration) of it and his delight in it.”
Piper elaborated on Edwards’ statements: “This was a stunning discovery for me. I must pursue joy in God if I am to glorify him as the surpassingly valuable Reality in the universe. Joy is not a mere option alongside worship. It is an essential component of worship. Indeed the very essence of worship – being glad in the glories of God.”
Brothers! We must fight for joy! Fighting for joy is our pursuit of it. We cannot create it, we cannot manufacture it, we can only allow it to enter our hearts. True joy can only come from the Father, through the Holy Spirit, and because of our relationship with Jesus. If that doesn’t fire you up then your wood is wet!
I leave you with this truth from the scriptures, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT). Yes, only the Holy Spirit can produce joy in us, we are not able to produce any of these fruits on our own. But we do have a part in seeing them come to fruition. Oh yes, we must fight, and fight I most certainly will! Why? Because, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” And Joy is so worth having!