Joy and peace….

Have you noticed how often in Scripture the two words “joy” and “peace” are located side by side? Paul, in particular, is prone to place them adjacent to one another as an invocation or benediction in his epistles. As I was awaking this morning I was pondering the relationship between the two.
Joi de vivre, joy of life. I think that is the essence of the abundant living that God had in mind to demonstrate for us when He stepped from His heavenly throne to dwell on earth in the person of Christ. When I think of His joy (Nehemiah 8:10b- “The joy of the Lord is my strength) I have tended to think of it in the French context and with a connotation of liveliness, excitement, having an appetite to enjoy all that life offers- like the joy that one sees in children at play who are learning a fun new game.
God has been teaching me for some time the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is based in how we see our circumstances, how much we enjoy them. Joy is predicated on confidence in God’s goodness, knowing His love for me as His child, and the expectation that whatever comes from His hand will, ultimately, be proven to be good. (Not that it is always particularly welcome, comfortable, or easy.) To that extent I have begun to understand the common association between love, hope and joy, too. The knowledge of His love brings hope and that gives me joy in living. As that love, hope and joy become more and more a regular feature of my life, true peace begins to take root. Circumstances become less and less capable of putting the little boat I call my life in danger of capsizing.
Now I am beginning to see the relationship between joy and peace. The “joy of the Lord”, I believe, is a joy that is deep, profound, peaceful- something that no one and no thing can take away. It is interesting to me that Nehemiah gives this instruction to the people after they have experienced conviction and regret after the public reading of and teaching from the holy books of the law. They are broken, grieving, weeping in the public square. He tells them, in their brokeness, that this is a sacred day, to go and celebrate and to involve those who have nothing in the celebration, too, for “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” In spite of their conviction and mourning over their brokeness, their unworthiness before the law, they know that God is with them and loves them. That gives them hope so that they can move on from the brokeness and know joy. That, says Nehemiah, is something to celebrate. And that knowledge brings peace to any heart that knows the love of the Lord.
I am preparing for a presentation I will give in a few weeks on “Love, joy, peace- the eternal things”. God is teaching me their relationship to one another, the order in which they appear in the believer’s life (in their true and eternal state). Galatians 5:22 lists them in that order as the first three of the 9 aspects of “fruit of the spirit”. I think any time attributes are listed in a sequence in the Word that the sequence is significant and represent God’s perfect plan. We may not experience them in exactly the order given, but the order given is God’s perfect order for the lives of His people. When we understand their relationship to one another we begin to see the reason for the order and other scriptures related to them begin to make more sense.
So I am increasingly visualizing joy in a more peaceful, serene way and less in my previous “joi de vivre” way. It’s not necessarily about feelings of exhilaration, excitement and delight (though those may occur at times.) It is about feelings of unshakeful, steadfast confidence, supreme trust, unwavering faith, stubborn reliance on the promise of Romans 8:28 (..for we know that all things work for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose..) That is the kind of joy and peace that can see one through the worst of difficulties, the most fierce storms.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Whatever floats your boat….” Well, I think it is God’s love (and the attendant hope that brings to my heart) , His joy, and His peace that keep mine afloat.
Romans 15:13-17- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”