I’ve had the idea for this post rolling around in my head for a while because I always hesitate to write about joy (especially when I’m not walking in it).
But recently, I encountered the power of the Lord’s joy-gift – so, without further I do: joy.
I think we’ve made a dire mistake – pursuit of (good) feelings. It sounds, really, like a phenomenal idea, because feelings make us, well, feel good (sometimes). But when put to the test, they have proven again and again to be too foundationless a thing to stake ourselves on – our contentment, our dreams, our happiness. There’s this idea floating around that if you can force yourself to be happy for so long, you’ve made it. Experience pleasure, you’ve made it. But there’s a bigger story – Why do you think the porn industry is such a big deal? How about marriage now? How about alcohol? Drugs? Abortion, even?
We’ve created a whole society that revolves around very fleeting emotions. Happiness shouldn’t be the destination because if happiness is the destination, façade is the means. And in this instance the means don’t justify the ends because “fake it till you make it” just doesn’t work for living happily. In fact, pursuing happiness is not on my list of things to do – that seems really upside down because we’re told to do what makes us happy and that will generate a successful life.
But, really? The deepest parts of my being crave something more permanent, something more eternal, than a high that can be taken away by any turn of events in a matter of seconds. Then, when my quality of being is rotating around the level of momentary highs that happiness brings, I find myself crashing hard when all my efforts have been put into something so unsustainable. My happiness flees when tragedies seize my wishy-washy heart’s emotions and walks me right out of the “perfect” place I’ve been striving for. You know what Jesus lived for? He literally lived for us to live – consequentially, He lived to die. Now, I highly doubt He took a lot of pleasure in hanging on a cross, and if His sole purpose in coming to earth was to experience earthly pleasure, we would all be very much screwed.
We’ve convinced ourselves that an emotional high is enough – emotional highs aren’t bad, but they don’t fulfill – they don’t give us the abundant life Jesus came to give us. And I’m aiming for abundance.
And the nail-scarred hands of Jesus suffering, God as man, have made a way for me to step into fullness of joy through His presence – “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Guys – there’s nothing wrong with pleasure. Heaven is literally going to be eternal pleasure in the presence of the greatest thing ever. Like, it’s going to be so much greater than anything that we can imagine on earth, and I think in the church we have demonized childlike joy and pleasure – as if solemnness is the only way to be, and the world has gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum! But there’s another extreme – when we chase pleasure to experience emotional gratification, it misconstrues pleasure too! We shouldn’t be living for pleasure or good emotions. In addressing the Church, there is, of course, a time for everything – solemnness being one of those things – but there is never a time to shame something Jesus has told us to be – childlike. Question: when was the last time you felt totally unhindered and unashamed, completely free, to express the fullness of childlike joy God has placed in you during worship? Have you experienced that? Maybe it was sitting down or maybe it was looking like a total lunatic dancing around and jumping? Have you ever just felt the urge to dance – like you could explode if you didn’t dance before the Lord? Or shout? Or jump? Or sing at the top of your lungs with reckless abandon? That purity of childlikeness – that purity of joy and peace – God calls us to live in that. We might feel foolish dancing, we might look it too, but God doesn’t laugh at us. He laughs, in joy, with us as we embrace a place of pure joy and beauty that He has called us to abide in.
And maybe you haven’t had any of those encounters with the Lord because that’s just how He reveals joy in me. But nonetheless, however we express or experience joy, we are called to abide in joy.
And you know what comes with abiding in the Lord in joy? Wonder. The world lacks experiencing wonder. The cry of my heart is “may we never lose our wonder” because it is so easy to get caught up in everyday routine and get so accustomed to the completely wonder-filled world around us. We can’t force wonder, but we can certainly find beauty in everything, and unwrapping the awe that resides in every single atom that makes up every single tangible thing we see around us.
There is so much wonder and beauty in the world, and we have an opportunity to live in joy! We have a choice to recognize the Presence on our worst days – to experience the joy of the Father even when joy is the last thing you could imagine experiencing. In our lowest valleys and the deepest, darkest pits, we have been graced with the opportunity for glory to transcend our emotions and our pain and our uncertainty.
“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”
– C.S. Lewis –