“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” (John 15:11 NIV).
When we bought our new home, we were excited to live in a planting zone that is good for blueberries. We happily bought a couple of blueberry bushes and planted them in the yard, daydreaming about muffins, French-toast, and jam. But the bushes failed to thrive. They never bloomed or produced fruit, and the leaves looked yellow and sick. Eventually both bushes died. Soil testing helped us identify the problem. Our soil was strongly alkaline, and the acid-loving blueberries wouldn’t flourish in the conditions of our soil. We could have blueberries, but first we had to cultivate an environment where they would grow.
Like our blueberries, joy also needs the right environment to grow. But joy—real joy—isn’t dependent on having the right amount of money in the bank, the perfect parking space, or children who clean their rooms and remember to put their dishes in the sink. We don’t cultivate joy by controlling our circumstances. We cultivate joy by clinging to Jesus.
On His last night with the disciples, Jesus told them how they could cultivate true and lasting joy:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” (John 15: 9-11 NIV).
What is Jesus telling us here? To obey His commands and remain in His love. Why is He saying this? So His joy may be in us and our joy may be complete. When we love God and obey His commands, we experience the fullness and wholeness of genuine joy.
In a difficult ministry season, a mentor told my husband that the best thing he could do was to keep loving our people. It made sense. All God’s commands are summed up in loving God and in loving others. When we dwell in Christ’s love for us so that it overflows in our love for others, joy is a natural result. We can cultivate joy by loving God and loving His people well.
We planted some new blueberry bushes in our yard this spring. Unlike their predecessors, these bushes are thriving. Before we planted them, we cultivated the soil to create the acid-rich environment blueberry bushes love. Their blooms remind me to create an environment in my life where joy can flourish. When I invest myself in loving God and others, I am giving joy what it needs to grow. What will you do today to cultivate joy?
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