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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, April 14, 2014

Natural Happiness and Spiritual Joy

(Galatians 5:22-23 KJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Even though my heart’s desire is to be laden with the “Fruit of the Spirit,” I find that maintaining that standard is sometimes a struggle. However, when one is able to exhibit the “Fruit of the Spirit” as a way of life it reveals how they have attained the highest level of maturity and discipline.

I must confess that my experience in trying to mature to such a level is like juggling nine balls all at the same time…I seem to miss more than I catch…even though I keep trying.

At this present time the “Fruit” that I am focusing on the most is “Joy.”

I find that joy is often put in the same category with happiness because of their similarities, even though they are not the same. As a matter of fact happiness and joy remind me of a flower garden which has both annual and perennial plants. Both plants are beautiful and bring pleasure, but their lifespan differ significantly.

The life of an annual plant is usually very short whereas the life of the perennial plant could last for many seasons.

Joy and happiness work on the same principle. However, if one is not aware of these differences, then when things get tough logic is allowed to take over and the result is usually the loss of happiness and the gain of despair and sadness.

Joy on the other hand is more permanent than happiness because it is not governed by one’s negative life experiences, but by one’s relationship with the Lord. This means that it is possible for one to grieve at the deepest level while still maintaining a sense of joy.

A few days ago our ministry team flew into Maryland from different parts of the country for our annual Ministers Conference. It has become our custom (when we gather) for all of the “out of state team members” to have dinner at the local team member’s home. That is always a delight.

After finishing a delicious meal I sat back and watched and listened to the others talk for the next hour or so. The conversational topics seemed to fly back and forth around the table like rockets. However, I noticed that even though everyone was talking and enjoy themselves there was no closure to any of the topics.

I love to listen to others talk because as a writer it not only gives me the chance to learn, but to also study their rhythm in conversational connectivity. However, that night I did not find any rhythm at all in their conversational connectivity, but only masses of words floating around.

As we got up to leave the table that night the last topic that I recall someone bringing up was the topic of “happiness and joy.” The following conversation seemed to be more about their sameness rather than about their difference. I may not have agreed with all of the thoughts on the subject, but I learned an important lesson in the midst of that dialog. It was during this last conversation that the Lord began to talk to me and show me something significant about all the other topics and masses of floating words.

I discovered that conversational happiness did not actually require all the dots to be connected and solutions found. Perhaps the lesson for me was to learn that masses of floating words sometimes play a major role in this type of happiness even though (like the annual flower) its longevity is relatively short. In other words, the idea is to have conversation that does not always require solutions or strategic planning.

Joy on the other hand reveals that deep sense of lasting relationship with the Lord, even when all the laughter, smiles and conversations have come to an end. The Holy Spirit is the only one that can bring such joy. (Thessalonians 1:6b)

Father,
Thank You for giving us natural happiness as well as spiritual joy. Help us not to analyze things so deeply that we miss the very thing that we are seeking. I thank You Lord for giving me this needed revelation and helping me as I continue to learn.

Amen

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