The Fruit of Joy
By Z Zoccolante
“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” – Galatians 5:22-23
The Bible verse above was one I heard as a kid. Growing up in Hawaii, I’d picture all kinds of tropical fruits in the garden, all these ways in which trees show the world who they are. A mango tree produces mango fruit. A lychee tree, lychee, and so on.
People are the same even though we don’t have branches and fruits. We have words, actions, and behavior that become our character. These things become who we are.
As an adult, one of the phrases I hear frequently is not to believe someone’s words but their actions. Anyone can tell you pretty words, dripping with all the honey, promises, or love your insides may long to hear. But what do they do? Watch how they treat themselves, others, you. People tell you who they are, audibly or not. But often we choose to ignore it. Watch the fruit. What’s their character? . . .
Today’s tiny thought is on Joy.
In today’s culture, we are obsessed with happiness. The irony in this is that we have the highest number of people on medication for depression or anxiety (which are legitimate and debilitating issues). When I was very low and in my eating disorder the only two things I wanted were happiness and freedom and I felt as though both of them eluded me.
I spent years of my life longing for a happiness that seemed right out of reach, or would happen in pockets of time but not consistently.
It was when I learned about joy, that I finally felt a freedom. Happiness is a temporary emotion. If something good is happening we feel happy. It doesn’t last except in pockets of time. Joy, on the other hand, has consistency because it doesn’t require us to be happy all the time. With joy there can be crap things happening but you can still be joyful.
For example, you can have your life falling apart but still be joyful. You may not be happy but you can feel joy.
I’m sure you’ve had this experience when something crap has been happening in your life and by all logic you “should” be feeling terrible. But for some reason, you have a joy that defies the situation. People have told me they’ve experienced this when they’ve been praying a lot, during times where their kids were experiencing medical issues, during times of separation or divorce, when someone has passed away.
Joy doesn’t mean that you’re happy that the event is happening or happened. You could be feeling terribly sad, heartbroken, or angry. You could be feeling all kinds of things in waves and flow.
But joy feels like an anchor that tethers you to something safe and solid even as the wind and waves blow around you in chaos. Joy is the anchor, that deep down knowing that you are held.
Joy is the lifesaver because it means that I can have it all the time in the midst of all my other emotions. It is a constant unlike happiness, which is fleeting on the surface. Joy is available all the time. It feels stable, grounding, and secure.
Joy is the anchor.
In the Bible they talk about “the Joy of the Lord is my strength.” What that feels like to me is someone saying, “hey I know it’s tough right now and you’re feeling all these uncomfortable ways. It’s ok. Why don’t you sit next to me in this hammock and I’ll put this warm blanket around you and you can watch the stars. Know that you have to be nothing other than what you are. And I’m gonna be right here for you for whatever you need.” That’s what God’s Joy feels like to me.
A presence. A home. An anchor, a safe harbor where I can be exactly who I am with all my varied emotions and that’s ok.
*And check out a new episode of the Throwing Up Rainbows Podcast Season 2 here.