Read: Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:15-21

But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy. (v. 22)

What comes to mind when you think of joy? What was the last experience you had that you would describe as “sheer joy”?

Joy is different from happiness. “The pursuit of happiness” is prized in the American Declaration of Independence as an inalienable right. Many people spend a great deal of time, money, and energy trying to chase down happiness. Joy comes by a different route, though. It’s not an inalienable right in the political sense but a byproduct of a deep experience in which, at least for a moment, we truly feel the fullness of life. Such experiences tend to happen not when we are pursuing joy, but when joy is pursuing us. Like C. S. Lewis, we’re surprised by it. Joy isn’t something we can manufacture on our own, but we can receive it, enjoy it, and share it with others.

Joy multiplies as it is shared, whereas happiness often reflects an attitude of scarcity. One person’s happiness might come at the cost of another’s, when there’s only so much to go around. Joy, in contrast, only becomes more abundant as it radiates out from the joyful person. There’s plenty to go around, like when the angels cried “joy to the world!” at Jesus’s birth. It was a message of inclusion, a word of welcome, beckoning anyone and everyone into the joy God offers in Jesus. Could joy be pursuing you today? Where is it ready to spill over from your life into someone else’s?

As you pray, ask God to give you deep joy through the abundance of the Spirit.

About the Author

Jessica Bratt Carle lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has served as a chaplain and more recently as a clinical ethicist at Corewell Health (formerly Spectrum Health) since 2017. She is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). She and her husband have two young sons.

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Fruit of the Spirit