Last time I mentioned that joy is found in relationships. You might wonder why this is so. First, psychologically speaking, as Dr. Wilder points out in the video clip, we bond at a very early age. It happens in the first 24 months as the mother bonds with the child, through smell, taste, touch, visual, and voice tone. This bonding process creates a sense of joy and gladness in the child and gets hard-wired into the brain.
Dr. Wilder also says that the potential of all sorts of psychological issues can develop in the child, even forming negative personality traits, when a healthy bonding process doesn’t happen. There’s also an interesting article in Science Daily (found here) about this, based on a study done by Northwestern University.
Biblically speaking, our source of joy is found in God’s presence.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)
As I said last time, God pulled out all the stops by sending His Son so that we could “bond” with Him forever. This bonding process is possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit given to us. And the fruit of this bonding is as follows:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal.5:22-23 NET)
This “fruit” describes a fully satisfied and contented soul at rest. What’s interesting to me about this bonding with Holy Spirit is that some of these attributes are similar to that of healthy bonding between a baby and mother in those critical first months.
So, how does this process work? How do we live from this joy? I believe that Jesus tells us in John’s gospel:
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12 NIV *)
Before we get into this, I really like how the Message and Phillips Bibles translate verse 9:
“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. (John 15:9 MSG *)
“I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. (John 15:9 PHILLIPS *)
We can break this passage down into the following points:
- Jesus loves us exactly the same as the Father loves Him (vs.9). How much does the Father love Jesus? That’s how much God loves you.
- We are told to remain, live, make our home in this love. Notice all that’s required is that we receive and live in God’s infinite love for us. (vs.9)
- Jesus obeyed the Father’s command by remaining in His love and loving us with the same love He received from His Father. (vs. 10)
- We will experience fullness of joy when we obey Jesus’ command, which is to remain in God’s love and love each other with the same love we’ve received from God. (vs.10-12)
Let me emphasize that obedience to Jesus is defined by other-centered, self-giving love. We first receive and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we go and love others with this same love. When we live our lives from this place, everything that God has ever wanted from us, from Genesis to Revelation, is automatically fulfilled (Matt.22:37-40).
This is exactly how God loves us. And the result is that we begin to experience God’s own joy, which results in our hearts overflowing with gladness.
11 My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT *)
Joy starts and ends with love, and this other-centered love is, by definition, relational. This is how we live from joy. Remember, joy does not depend on our circumstances, good or bad. We can have “pure joy” in the midst of very difficult times (James 1:2).
I truly believe this is the key to a life fully lived (and loved). And, as Warner and Wilder say in their book (Rare Leadership), we grow in maturity by growing our ability to experience joy. What this looks like is that I act like the same person, loving others and expressing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23), regardless of my circumstances, good or bad, and regardless of how others treat me. I begin to look and act like Jesus.