Is it possible to have “complete joy” in our lives? Yes, but only when we understand what complete joy looks like from God’s perspective and how he has made it possible for us to experience it.

John 15:9-17 NRSV

[9] As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. [10] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. [11] I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. [12] “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [13] No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. [15] I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. [16] You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. [17] I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

That word “complete” can leave us feeling so needful of so many things.

Back during the holidays, my wife was having a conversation with someone from a completely different culture and it was right before Black Friday. She asked, “Anything you’re hoping to buy on Black Friday?” And his response, with great kindness and through a smile was, “Oh, we need nothing.”

And he meant it. And his response has challenged us again and again to need nothing upon this earth except the things that really matter – relationships.

We have to first understand that the biblical idea of “joy” is never dependent upon:

  • Our circumstances
    Our emotions

So I want to redefine “complete joy” NOT as only having joy and never having pain or grief or suffering but rather, joy and peace in the middle of life’s pain, grief, and suffering. In spite of the hard parts of life, real joy is possible.

“Complete joy” is within reach when you…

1. Trust that you are completely loved.

(vs. 9-11)

KNOW that you are wholly known, loved, and valued.

This is not the same as feeling lovable. This is a matter of accepting, by faith, that God loves you because he is love and because he created you to be an object of his forever love.

2. Transfer your love to other people.

(vs. 12-13)

  • It’s a matter of focus. Others instead of myself.

The more I focus on myself, my wants, my needs, my shortcomings, the more needy I feel for things and life and other people to prop me up.

But the more I focus on my life on other people, the better off I am.

  • It’s a matter of obedience to God.

We often think of obedience to God as a simple matter of obeying God’s rules so God doesn’t “get” us in a disciplinary way. But what if we substituted another word.

What if we looked at obedience to God as alignment with God’s will?

  • It’s a matter of attunement with God and with others.

3. Value your friendship with Jesus.

(vs. 14-15)

Jesus is willing to call us his friends. Not mere acquaintances. Not merely disciples or followers, but friends. He is forever personal.

Do you know what fridge friends are? They’re the people who feel so comfortable with you that they can come into your house, open your fridge, and grab a snack.

Jesus is even more than a fridge friend. He’s so intimately involved with who we are that he remains close even when we pull away. He remains faithful even when our faith feels like it’s failing.

4. Embrace God’s purpose for you to be fruitful.

(vs. 16-17)

Recently, my son Sam had to work on a science project in which he hypothesized that edible vegetable plants could be grown without the use of traditional soil (hydroponically).

Apparently, he was right. All of the plants we put in traditional soil, in his words, “failed miserably.” But several of the ones we put in coco peat and doused with water and liquid fertilizer thrived.

The truth is, God never intended for our lives to just exist in a lifeless, fruitless way. God’s intention is that we multiply. That we be fruitful. That we give life to other people along the way.

In fact, the more life we give to others, the more life we experience!

Do you feel incomplete? Perhaps today is a day to pray for the realization and experience of God’s personal, infinite love for you and his ability to make your life fruitful.