There are 242 Bible results for the word “joy” in the NIV—after all, it is the fruit of the Spirit, along with “peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In the Old Testament joy is expressed most often in the Psalms, followed by Isaiah, Proverbs and Jeremiah. Not surprisingly, in the New Testament Luke has 12 references to joy and John has 8. People sing and shout for joy and it is coupled with strength and celebration.
The word has a special place in our lives as well. In 1965 when Joice was in a government hospital at the coastal city of Lae, I was awaiting the birth at a guest house not far away. We had discussed a “middle” name for a girl, which I was sure we were having (but didn’t know). We didn’t know what name we should choose. However, early in the morning on October 30th I awoke with a desire to read the Psalms and there I found our name: “weeping may endure for a night, but JOY comes in the morning.”
I hurried to tell Joice at the hospital, arriving just as our little girl entered the world. The nurse was about to call me, but I already had the premonition that the time had come. I rushed into the delivery room and exclaimed excitedly to Joice: “I know the middle name for her—it is JOY,” and then I told her why we needed to call her with that name. Joice was too tired to disagree!
Karol Joy joined her brother Kirk James as our surprise offspring, because we had been told after an earlier ectopic pregnancy that we were unlikely to have more children. We were pleasantly surprised that the doctors were wrong.
We often tell this story because it reflects the power of the Spirit of God and the power of a name. If you know that part of your name is “joy,” it may help you to reflect that characteristic. My middle name is “James” and I have no idea why, except that it was my dad’s middle name and so I passed it on to our son. He has continued the tradition with one of his sons.
Names always “meant something” in the Bible—referring to events or features of the time or some person. They also did in the village where we lived for many years in Papua New Guinea. A favorite name for boys is the Kewa word for “fight.” When I asked about the name, I was told “Oh, that is to remind us of the battle with a certain clan about the time he was born.” There were always stories—true or invented—about why someone had their particular name. Kewa people had several names: the birth name, clan name, government name (for census), baptismal name (usually a phrase, such as “a new way”), and nickname.
My moniker was “Pora,” which meant “road” and Joice’s was “Usainu,” which was a combination of the village where we lived (Usa—we didn’t name it) and the feminine suffix -nu. Sometimes just an attempt at saying our English names was enough: Kirk became “Puriki” and Karol was sometimes simply “Keroli” (as pronounced using the Kewa alphabet).
The young man who assisted me in translation work was first named “Kirapeasi,” meaning “make it cook a little” but he was most often called simply Kira “to cook.” Later on, when he represented the village in a local government council, his name changed to “Number One,” He wrote an autobiography and called himself “Yombo.” Any name would optionally have the additional tag of the clan or village name as well.
Most of us can relate some facts (and fiction) about our names and many of us may have researched our surnames. Mine is “Franklin” and there are lots of them, a few were celebrities, but most were probably not. My father traced our Franklin lineage and claimed it went back to the brother of Benjamin Franklin named John—he had 16 siblings, but four died at birth. His five older brothers were Samuel, John, Josiah, James and Peter.
It would be nice to be more directly tied to Ben, famous as he was as a printer, scientist, politician, postmaster, inventor, statesman, author, and so on. He also founded many civic organizations, including the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia’s first fire department. His face (or at least a picture of it) can be found on the $100 bill.
My mother’s genealogy was directly tied to the Dutch and she had a number of Dutch idioms (that I won’t repeat) to prove it. Joice’s ancestry was Irish and German.
Several years ago we both took the ancestry.com “spit test” and found out more: Joice’s dad was born in London, so she assumed she had a lot of British blood in her. Instead, it is mainly Irish. Mine, as would be expected, is primarily British, but also Iberian. We could be wrong of course: we may have had colds at the time so the spit may not have been pure.
Despite ancestry.com, we know that we are “Gentiles” and needed to be grafted into the “Jewish” tree. Jesus did that for us and in the process we received new and overriding names: Christians.
Because of that, our hearts sing with joy and we are reminded:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:11)
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
With Great Joy
Karl and Joice Franklin