This is an ongoing “Fruit of the Spirit” series featuring my past perspectives from 2019 along with present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro and my first fruit about love as I talk about joy below.

Dean from December 2019

As a child I was taught this little acronym for JOY: “Jesus, Others, You.” Anyone else also get this little lesson? Would be nice to know I’m not alone in this oddity.

While I’ve since left behind or forgotten many things from childhood, I have always kept this one thing close to me. Originally, I used to think of the acronym as a way to work on humility: “Being humble brings JOY!”

Of course, this is how things were explained to me as a selfish child (as most kids commonly are).

Even as an adult, that’s sometimes how I’ve approached joy — have joy in humility by putting Jesus and others before myself.

But now, as I consider joy going into 2020, I wonder if I’ve gotten things backwards.

What if joy leads to humility?

I’ve heard it said that joy is a contentment or cheeriness not based on circumstances. I don’t see why that wouldn’t still be true. But what would it look like if I had this overflowing joy in my life?

I wonder if I’d naturally keep my priorities in order with humility if I had a foundation of contentment, cheeriness, and satisfaction resting in something other than my circumstances.

What if, perhaps, Christ was my foundation for these things? Wouldn’t that naturally lend itself to my not being shaken by circumstances? Wouldn’t a foundation of Christ motivate me to love and edify others? And wouldn’t this same foundation also keep me from both self-hate and egotism?

Ultimately, how can I express joy in my queerness that doesn’t glorify sin yet also expresses humility?

Perhaps, in 2020, I will see what this kind of approach in joy could yield . . .

Dean in April 2020

I swear, if joy were a person, I’d punch him. At least, I would want to. In reality, I would break down crying in front of Joy.

I was working one day in early February when God taught me about joy; honestly, the lesson wasn’t welcome.

For the past several months, I have worked as a content editor for an incredible ministry: an opportunity I do not take lightly. God has allowed me so many opportunities to spread the Gospel across the country through this job.

This doesn’t mean I always enjoy everything I do. While I enjoy editing written resources, I also really love other things — like talking to people.

While in the middle of a long read one day, I kept getting distracted by my desire to simply have a conversation. Just one would do! Even five minutes with another living human being would be so helpful!

Instead, in five minutes I went from moving commas to nearly weeping alone in a coffee shop. I just wanted to talk to someone. Anyone.

As I sat there with tears in my eyes, I heard a small whisper — “Why do you ache?”

“Because,” I responded nearly inaudibly, “I just want to do what I love. I want to help others by talking with them, not just editing a book.”

I think it was the first time I had verbalized that sentiment. Before that, I skirted the issue.

“I love to disciple, but this is good too,” I’d told everyone. But never before had I been honest about really wanting to talk to people again.

I wasn’t sure if I’d get a response. But a moment later, the whisper returned — “Joy” is all it said.

Is it sinful to roll your eyes at God occasionally? If so, I’ll confess that I rolled my eyes. And then I laughed.

Not a sardonic or self-loathing laugh.

No, I actually laughed a joyful laugh.

In that moment, something clicked. I was frustrated, lonely, tired, worn out, and unsure. Yet these were all due to my circumstances.

When I considered a greater hope, a greater purpose in life, I found joy despite my circumstances.

After that day, I continued to mull over the joy available in all areas of my life. Concerning my sexuality, I found joy that I am who I am in Christ — sexuality, gender, and all.

Joy has nothing to do with what’s going on in my life.

It has everything to do with where I am going after this life.

How do you define or live out joy? Do you struggle to find joy in your day-to-day life?

About the Author

  • I still need to read/see “The Shack.” All interviews I’ve ever seen with the author, including his participation in “The Heart of Man” lead me to believe that I’d enjoy it a lot.

  • In 1956, Elvis sings in ‘Paralized’: “I’m gay every morning, at night I’m still the same.” Surely, vocabulary changed since then…
    At some point (when I was about 18) I started connecting my joyful nature with my lack of masculinity. I somehow became suspicious about my joy – it felt so gay. And I definitely didn’t want to be gay.
    So now, even after years, I’m actually less joyfull, still suspicious that I’m somehow choosing to be gay by embracing my “gay joy”. That by being joyful I’m not behaving like how the society expects a men to behave. That I should abandon my “immature” means. That I should finally become a man.
    So much pain in that…
    I’d like to resolve that conflict because it makes me feel uncomfortable about who I am. And here’s the core question: “Who am I?”
    Every “side A” person would also claim: “I want to be who I am.”
    This question may lead into a great deal of confussion, I think.
    But you, Dean, you actually answered it!
    It’s about who I am in Christ. He can say who I am. And that’s the source of my joy. To turn my view from myself to Christ, and then to others. Then I can find myself. JOY.
    I’ll really have to think about that.
    Thank you so much!
    Superb post!

    • Thank you for sharing your journey in discovering Joy, Anthony! You are right about that core question: the path to joy is on the path to understanding who we are.
      Thank you for reading! I’m glad I was able to bless you!

  • I absolutely love “The Shack.” The joy displayed in that movie is incredible — when I first watched it, I immediately clung to the essence of joy that is found in God’s presence. Thank you for this reminder, Mike.

  • >