For about six years we lived in Tyler, Texas. Although there were many, our best memory was the backyard swing. The previous owners had left a swing on the old oak tree that stood tall and strong in the middle of the yard. Ropes came down from at least twenty feet above, tied securely to a thick limb that reached out at a ninety degree angle like a steel beam of a building.
The boys loved the swing. We’d push them as high as the swing would go and they’d be yelling and laughing with a mixture of fear and delight. Sometimes I’d get a little nervous and think, “What if they lose their grip on the ropes?” and I’d slow them down and keep them lower to the ground. At which they would always say, “Again, Daddy, again!”
The boys were full of joy when I was pushing them on the swing. But I have to admit the same was not always true of me. I was working full-time, coaching their soccer teams, and working on a Master’s degree. There were many times I wanted to just get through our playtime and get on with more pressing things like writing a paper or finishing up some work.
All the while I was very conscious of the fact that I did not have the joy they had. You probably know what I’m talking about:
- Your days are long and your nights are short. You’re weary.
- Your car is making a sound that cars are not supposed to make and your bank account is about to take another hit it’s not ready to take.
- The people around you drain the life out of you and even though you’ve heard it takes more muscles to frown than to smile you figure at least a part of your body is getting a workout.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told us that to enter into his kingdom we must become like children (Matt. 18:3). Children possess a joy that adults often have lost along the way to grownupness. But wouldn’t you like to regain it?
We can. Jesus said so. He said so even on his way to the cross. He was gathered in the Upper Room with his disciples and told them, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). His desire for us is that we have joy and that it is full.
“Full” means more than just a little. Let’s say your joy is contained in a football. If I take the football and only put 12 ounces of pressure in it, apparently it is not full. Anywhere between 12.5 and 13.5 ounces of pressure is full. But not 12. So if your joy is like a football Jesus wants you to have at least 12.5 to 13.5 ounces of joy pressure. He wants you to have as much as you can possibly hold.
He tells us how it can happen in “these things.” He has just told them that the Father loves them just as the Father has loved the Son. He tells them to abide in his love. And then he explains that abiding in his love means keeping his commandments.
Be confident in His love. When you are, you’ll trust his guidance for your life. When you do then add these “joy-producers” to your life:
- Find times to celebrate. Throw a party. Enjoy a festival.
- Hang out with joy-carriers. Know some people who naturally exude joy? Get around them and they’ll spread their joy-virus to you.
- Learn to think joy. People who have a deep-seated joy see the big picture. The small stuff that can zap most of joy doesn’t deflate theirs. They know they are going to be fine in the eternal perspective.
- Serve others instead of yourself. When all you see are your present problems, your past mistakes, or possible future predicaments you’ll be a pitiful person. But focus on others and serve them and watch your joy return. God designed us in a way that the more we get rid of self the more room he has to fill us with joy.
You can have joy starting today. Go out and find a swing. Take off. And you’ll find a joy you haven’t known since you were a child.
Question: Where do you find the most joy in your life?