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Lent is often thought of as a solemn period of lamenting over sin, and it’s good at times to spend time in reflection and repentance. Our current situation may well contribute to a sense of sadness and sorrow, but this does not mean we have to be miserable people. Joy is another fruit of the Spirit which needs to grow within us in all seasons. Joy is the source of strength (Neh 8:10) and was promised to every believer by Jesus (John 17:13) It’s not something only to be found in happy circumstances; it’s a deep-rooted conviction that God is in control and therefore we can face life with positive hope.

Joy is not just about happy feelings, about clapping and singing and shouting praise (though it will usually result in those things!) It is a choice we make every day to look for the good things God is doing and to give thanks for those things. When we struggle to see good things, we can give thanks for who God is – that list never runs out!

We serve a Saviour who understands and embraces all emotions. Jesus wept at the death of his friend. (John 11:35) One of His titles was the ‘man of sorrows’, a man of suffering who was familiar with pain. (Is 53:3) To embrace joy is not to deny that there are seasons of tears and pain and grief: surely this Easter season reminds us of this, if nothing else. But we go through those seasons knowing there is ultimately joy to be embraced: ‘For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Heb 12:2)