Joy is the serious business of heaven. CS Lewis
Joy is a serious problem.
It is commanded in the Bible (Phil 4:4) universally sought after and yet remains a generally elusive experience for most people I know. We are a joy-impaired society and this is a big deal especially for followers of Christ. Lewis Smedes says “To miss out on joy is to miss out on the reason for your existence.” And yet, it seems to me, that joy remains one of the most poorly handled, often ignored aspects of faith in our day. Joylessness may be the most tolerated sin in the Christian community. Some churches seem to boast in their lack of it… (if the shoe fits!)
The 9 sticker day dance.
Jake is a 9 year old boy who has no problem with joy. Maybe you could say that about many 9 year olds. Maybe we would do well to investigate the difference between grown up joy deficits and youth joy reserves. But Jake is not just any 9 year old boy. Jake was born with some special needs that make him unique. He has had to overcome challenges at every turn in his development. Jake didn’t learn how to walk or talk or read or write at the same pace as many other kids. But Jake is a joy master! Last week I happened to experience a profound lesson in joy when I was inadvertently included in Jake’s 9 sticker day dance. Apparently, each day Jake comes home with a report that outlines the successes and challenges he had at school. The successes are marked with smiley faces and stickers and the challenges- well who really cares how the challenges are marked. On this particular day Jake came home with a 9 sticker report (the most stickers possible!) and I was a witness to the unveiling of the report to his Mom and Dad. Jake didn’t just show it, he celebrated it. If fact he danced with all his might ever hurling himself all over the kitchen, stomping his feet and swinging his arms in celebration! I couldn’t help but join in the dance- what else does one do in the presence of shear joy?
So why do we so often miss out on joy?
There are certainly many reasons but one for sure is because we cannot make ourselves joyful. We try to manufacture it by entertaining ourselves and we try to borrow it from athletes or celebrities. But the truth is we cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy it turns out is a function of your soul not your circumstances. The soul that delights in the Lord has an inexpressible glorious joy (1Peter 1:8) regardless of its circumstances. Joy and sorrow can commingle. Pain is not the antithesis of Joy; hopelessness is. Joy is the only coherent plan for living in a fallen world. Celebration, therefore, is the spiritual discipline that points us towards Joy.
We have sinned and grown old.
The 9 sticker day dance was the most joy producing celebration I have encountered in a long time! Kids are always better at celebrating than adults. GK Chesterton famously wrote “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown up person does it again until he’s nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” Jake may be younger than us all!
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