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"I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete."

John 15:11

Complete joy! Doesn't that sound wonderful? How I long for complete joy in this challenging world. Yes, I get glimpses of joy that come from a beautiful sunset, the smile on someone's face, a baby's laugh, a snuggle from my dog. All lovely and wonderful gifts from God.

Too often we spend our lives desperately searching for happiness – which is not the same as joy.  Self-help books are filled with formulas to find happiness.  Yet so often happiness is short lived.  I believe that is because happiness is self-focused – What will please ME?  Make ME smile?  Fulfill ME? 

In the Scripture above, what is the “this” that Jesus refers to as the key to joy?  The answer is in the sentence which follows the above quote, John 15:12, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  Love is what brings joy.  Not love of self, but rather loving others as God loves us.  In those acts of pure, selfless love, we find joy.  Too often we confuse love for those experiences of feeling loved – of how others make us feel good.  We focus on the love we receive rather than the love we give, which is always short lived. 

Jesus tells us to focus on the giving of unconditional love to others rather than focus on receiving that love.  There is an amazing joy that comes from loving as God does – not requiring or even asking anyone for anything, but rather seeing the goodness in them that God sees.  The way we feel when we love another is deeper and richer and fuller than when love is received.  When we are ready to pour ourselves out for another, we experience a depth of feeling like no other, the joy that Jesus calls us to.  And that joy changes us inside, shifting us to give rather than to receive. 

Yet, the end of that sentence, to love one another as I love you is equally important to our active participation in loving others.  Knowing that we are loved deeply and fully by God is what enables us to love others.  We cannot give what we have not received.  Fortunately, God is the ultimate lover, never to be outdone in the love He gives us.  And it is that love that enables us to love others as well as ourselves.

We can be filled with joy by a baby’s laugh, our lover’s embrace, or a dog’s snuggle, because the impact is deeper and fuller by noticing God's presence in it.  For in those moments, we have a glimpse of being connected with God and seeing, in our limited capacity, as God does, the beautiful goodness He put in each of us and in this world, that so often goes unnoticed.  How would our lives on earth be different  - and this earth itself be different - if we were always seeking to see and love the goodness around us, instead of getting distracted by all the ugliness?  Indeed, there is plenty of both.  To try to love like Jesus does requires we look past the ugliness, the challenge, and the difficulty to find the beauty, the love and the joy that awaits us in every moment, and live fully into those. 

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