Last week, while Jesus was still talking to his disciples (as opposed to talk to them under the auspices of talking to God), he told them these words, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). This week, Jesus is praying to his Father (with added commentary for his disciples) when he says, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (John 17:13). If last week’s promise seemed unimaginably hard to reach, this week’s is downright absurd.
I mean, come on!?! The joy of Jesus made complete in us? Clearly Jesus had never been a part of a church or had to pay a bill or gone to get his air conditioner looked at and walked away seven hours later with a brand-spanking-new car note (like I did yesterday).
Joy is not a commodity much traded in these days, and even when we do find a way to be joyful even in difficult circumstances, that joy feels far from complete, fullfilled, or overflowing.
The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that the key to understanding these two promises is knowing the one who made them. On my own, I’ll never achieve joy. Instead, I’ll chase after the hopeless pipe dreams of this world: fame, fortune, prestige and power; only to find myself frustrated at every turn. If I place my trust in Jesus instead of this world, and follow the will of his Father, then soon I find that even when things aren’t going my way, there is peace and joy that abounds. To paraphrase Psalm 23, even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, my cup overflows with grace and mercy.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding is the source of true joy – complete joy. It is not something I can find on my own, but comes from trust in the one who guarantees it: God Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.