These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

John 15:11

“Joy”, what a beautiful word! What is there not to love about joy? And the idea that joy can be “full”, is surely the best kind.

John 15:11 stood out to me many years ago and has never let me go. I’ve wrestled with it at times. What part do my feelings play in having full joy? What role do difficult circumstances play? Can full joy come and go? Is there such a thing as an incomplete, only half-full joy? As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I have read many times His words recorded in John 15. He clearly intended for us to have and experience full joy, a joy that is not deterred or snuffed out by life challenges and ever-changing circumstances.

As a writer, words are frequently accompanied by pictures in my mind’s eye or illustrations that reinforce the words. When I think of full joy, I don’t start with a word analysis or Biblical exposition. Instead, I see beautiful things in abundance or objects that fill a space, such as overflowing flowers that cascade down the side of a pot or a field full of bright blooms with no room for footprints to land. Maybe even better is the picture of flowers growing and existing in unexpected places, like a barren desert, in cracked pots or overgrown spaces. The places where the existence of the beauty stands in contrast to the surroundings. I’ve been learning I can experience full joy anywhere. Joy can sprout in the broken pots of my imperfect efforts or in my own overgrown, out of control, messy places.

My husband and I parent two, young adult special needs children. I could write pages about how much we love them, but love does not diminish challenges. We know it will be a lifelong journey and commitment. With this reality, I have found myself focusing more on the words of Jesus, “…that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” He made no declaration that it was dependent on easy or hard circumstances. This journey will be a lifetime one and we want to travel it with joy-filled hearts. How we choose to make the journey will affect the lives of our children every single day.

His joy is deeply rooted in my soul space, not in the shallow topsoil of my circumstances. It has made all the difference in my life to begin to understand the difference.

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