Yesterday, I got a tad emotional. You see, my Mum is slowly doing her best to move any clutter from her house to my house, so the other week she very subtly put a bunch of stuff in the boot of my car when she thought I wasn't looking, to bring back to Swansea with me. I'd left this in my car for about a week but yesterday I got round to actually looking inside and putting some stuff away. It was more interesting than I first expected, as I thought it only contained files of Maths lecture notes (not exactly bedtime reading), but it turned out to also hold 'memory boxes' from each year I was at university. These are box files where I keep together all the things that I had up on my walls, any nice post I received, clippings of inspiration/humour and a whole host of bizarre things I'd picked up over the year (glow sticks that have lost their glow, bits of string, party poppers, etc.)
You may be thinking, "Wasn't the title of this post 'Joy'? Does this have anything to do with joy?" I'll tell you now. So I started reading through the many letters people had written to me (I'd forgotten how much I used to communicate by mail, must start again) or words of encouragement given to me. I was struck by the overwhelming feature of people describing me as full of joy, or always smiling, or even 'radiating' the joy of knowing Christ. Over and over, this seemed to be the standout characteristic people associated with me. Now that is really lovely, but I got to thinking, "Would people still describe me as being chiefly characterized by the joy of knowing Jesus?" and I suspect not. I don't know why the lustre has gone, and it's not that I don't love Jesus anymore, or that He's any less good today than a few years ago, just maybe the 'ministry of enthusiasm' that I once exercised so regularly, has taken a bit of a backseat. And so I cried, quite a lot, I want the thought of Jesus to fill me with joy and for that to show in my life, to be distinctive, but I feel I've been letting other stuff bog me down and looking to the wrong things to make me happy.
So this morning, being Sunday, I prayed that God would restore my joy through something at church. Does God still answer prayers today? Let's see; we dwelt upon how beautiful he is in this morning's worship, we were reminded in the preaching of His grace, and of the identity, purpose and hope that it gives us, two young people stepped out in faith and publicly shared their testimony and got baptised, a third young person sang a beautiful song about being a child of God, I spent most of the afternoon in the company of friends from church (and laughing a LOT), I got to chat to a few people I didn't know before who are also new to church and last but not least I was massively encouraged by a word from one of our Pastors about God not being finished with me yet and having much more in store (words from the old hymn, 'Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do'). Yes God answers prayers, yes knowing God brings me great joy, yes God speaks into my life, yes the truth of the Gospel is as powerful today as ever and yes I have much to look forward to as I look ahead in my life with Jesus.
Joy. Bucketloads of it. Thanks God.