By Cora Alles
“Wow, this weather is sure miserable! If only the sun would come out for one minute.”
“Traffic was awful today; some guy kept cutting lanes. Don’t tell me I’m in a bad mood!”
“She always leaves her dirty dishes right there, ruining the kitchen I just cleaned! Ugh.”
Complaining. We do it every day. And our attitudes toward life circumstances rub off onto the people we interact with. From family members to coworkers to friends, we influence how others think and feel. I have been convicted time and time again by this question: Am I influencing others by my negativity or by my joy? I used to be a very negative person who frequently expressed statements like the ones above. Then God began to teach me about an important fruit of the Spirit: Joy.
Are you currently joyful? When I talk about joy, I don’t mean a fleeting feeling of happiness in response to some advantageous event. I don’t mean the thrill of a new car, or the reaction to a promotion, or even the warm, fuzzy feeling of spending quality time with people you love. Those are all great things, but joy is not a temporary emotion. True joy comes from knowing God and trusting in Him. It is the continual heart attitude of a Christian who knows without a doubt that God loves them no matter what the circumstances.
In Psalm 4:7, David writes, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” (NIV Life Application Bible). Today, this verse might be equivalent to “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their careers, technology, houses, vacations, or followers on social media abound.” If you have ever found yourself with an abundance of something, you may have experienced the temporary feeling of happiness. But within a few hours, days, or weeks, your circumstances change and your mood swings. Ask yourself whether you are displaying inner joy or simply reacting to whatever life gives you in the moment.
If you’re like me, you often get swept up in circumstances and forget about the true joy that comes from Christ. My Bible has a note under John 15:10-12 with an explanation of this joy that is available to Christians:
“True joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When our lives are intertwined with his, he will help us walk through adversity without sinking into debilitating lows and manage prosperity without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily will keep us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances.”
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Others should notice how it makes us different from the rest of the world. We belong to a mighty, holy, loving God who is sovereign over everything – what do we have to complain about?
Paul knew this truth. As an innocent man in prison, where he had every right to complain and be bitter, he wrote to the church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
Are you a negative complainer or a joyful believer?