September 24, 2018
It is not hard to find joy in the pages of the Bible. Biblical texts remind us over and over again that joy flows from the heart of God and is God’s gift to us in both good times and bad. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy (Psalm 47:1). “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice (Philippians 4:4). It is easy to make the case for joy as a central part of the Biblical narrative.
And yet joy is not always easy to understand or to recognize. We can start by saying that joy is not the same thing as happiness, and that is true enough.
Happiness is generally based on temporary circumstances while joy comes from some deeper place in our lives. That would suggest that joy is possible even when we aren’t necessarily happy with the circumstances of our lives, and I believe that this is true.
But still the question remains: what is joy? Here is my answer. Joy is what comes to us at those moments in our lives when we find ourselves in alignment with God’s purposes for the world to such a degree that we experience the very presence of the Lord.
Fred Craddock shares a story that illustrates joy for me. He had just finished a worship service as the guest preacher of a church and was walking out to the parking lot when a van full of teenagers pulled in. They ranged in age from 13 to 18 and as they piled out of the van, they were dirty and unkempt and just generally looked a mess. Asking someone near him if they knew who these young people were, they said, “Oh yes, that is our youth group. They’ve been on a mission trip to help a remote village build a new place for worship.”
Craddock wandered over to speak to the group and spoke to one of the boys. “Are you tired?” The boy responded, “Tired? I’ve never been this tired in my whole life.” But then he added these words. “But it’s the best tired I’ve ever been!”
Craddock says, “Now that’s joy, Biblical joy. And I just hope we can all be that tired one day.” May it be so for all of us.