Recovering Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:4-6)

About five years ago, I was visiting my sister at her cottage in the summertime. It was first thing in the morning, the sun was emerging beautifully from her slumber, the mist rising mysteriously and majestically from the water, and I was down at the dock with my Bible in hand and my toes in the water. It was then that I heard that Still Small Voice say to me, “You are destined for my joy.” That experience has long lingered with me—and I believe it’s a biblical message for not just me, but for every believer in Jesus Christ.

We live in dangerous, nervous times. The church is in flux. There’s much to be worried about. But we’re told not to worry (Matthew 6:25-34!), and we are told to be joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” And then, Paul says, tellingly, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.”

Why are we to be joyful? Because the Lord is near, that’s why. And He is a God of grace. Think about it: We don’t do anything to deserve God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s salvation, God’s amazing life and eternity. It is all a free gift given at the precious price of the Lord Jesus himself.

In fact, that can be a fun way of recovering joy: Commit a random act of giving for someone else. One of the most hilarious things you can do is, when you come up to a toll booth on the road, or up to the drive-through at your favourite coffee stop, tell the cashier that your good friend is behind you and say that you’d like to pay for their bill as well as yours. If they catch up to you, you’ll get the most priceless, quizzical looks you’ve ever seen! I’ve done it, and I’ve chuckled for the better part of a half hour afterwards. But isn’t that what Jesus has done for us all? He’s paid our bill, and he is the Lord of Joy.

Every believer in Jesus has been destined for his joy. Our God is a God not only of love and power and grace and holiness, but He’s a God of joy as well. In his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Timothy Keller summarizes things better than I ever could: “We know of no joy higher than being loved and loving in return, but a triune God would know that love and joy in unimaginable, infinite dimensions. God is, therefore, infinitely, profoundly happy, filled with perfect joy—not some abstract tranquility but the fierce happiness of dynamic, loving relationships. Knowing this God is not to get beyond emotions or thoughts but to be filled with glorious love and joy.”

We look past our circumstances to Him … and we rejoice.

Published in The Presbyterian Record on April 1, 2016.