Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The notion of joy

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

There is something incredibly deep in that passage. Travis and I have been talking a lot recently about the notion of "joy that is inexpressible" (or, as some translations render it, simply joy inexpressible). I'm sitting here grasping at the words to describe that joy to you - the overwhelming, passionate joy that simply defines one's existence when one is truly and deeply in love with God. It's a joy that has become infinitely more real in my life in the last few months. Try as I might, I'm finding that the verse is fundamentally true. I have no words, no melody, no equation, no idea how to express so great and so wonderful a joy. It fills your days. It brightens every moment, no matter how dark. It is the light than is behind the clouds, no matter how heavy and overcast the sky. In knowing Christ, we not only have peace beyond our understanding, but a joy that defies all our attempts to describe, that we cannot reconcile with our often dreary-seeming existence, beyond which we occasionally catch a glimpse of the magnificent that it was meant to be.

I was walking to my car last night, and it was raining. I was trying to tell my friend Andrew the joy the rose in my heart just because it was raining. There's something incredibly beautiful about rain. It cleanses. Just the scent of rain somehow communicates a sense of new life, a hint that the old is being washed away so that the new can come. It made me want to leap and skip about. I used to hate rain, actually. I've come to love it, though. As I tried to tell Andrew (and I'm not sure, really, how much I managed to express), I have come to love almost every kind of weather. There is so much beauty in it all. And when we start to surrender to joy, we can't help but be enthused by the wonder of all that God has made. When was the last time you actually stopped to think about rain? How it works? How much it accomplishes? How it can smell the way it does? And God made it all! Sometimes I want to leap about; I want to stretch my arms out wide enough to take it all in; I want to open up my heart enough to catch a little bit better a glimpse of eternity. It's like the lingering ringing of sound in the air after a beautiful symphony, or the image burned into your retinas after a moving film. It's like the fading hues of a perfect sunset, or the sound of birdsong at dawn. Heaven will be all that and more. And oh, the joy! The unending joy - every tear wiped away, all our sorrows forgotten, all our sins not only forgiven but far behind us, never to be seen again... if the joy we feel in this life is but a taste of that to come, we ought to long for heaven with everything in us.

I'm rambling a bit now, I think, but it's hard not to. My heart soars when I contemplate heaven, when I think on eternity, when I catch a glimpse of the magnificent splendor that being in perfect fellowship with God will be. I was speaking of joy. I've been learning in the last few months not only what joy is - that incredible, inexpressible response of the heart to God's touch, so much more and so very different from happiness, that wonderful (but in contrast so pitiful) emotion - but also what it means to really walk in joy. I've for a long time been a very serious person, and I still am. But I've also been a dour person, and that I do not have to be! To the contrary, every day should be one filled with joy. The moment when all of this finally clicked to me was in the midst of a conversation with Travis just before dinner a few weeks ago, when I responded to his question of how I was doing by choosing to respond - truthfully - that I was doing extremely well. It took a moment, so there was a pause, which he picked up on and followed up with me about. Why the pause? Because it had not been a good day at all circumstantially. Yet, I could choose to be doing well, or not. I could choose to walk in the joy and peace of God, or not. It's that simple. Really.

I didn't use to understand how one friend of mine could be perpetually joyful. Some of it is simply her personality and the shape God has given to her heart. I did know that it was often a blessing to me to see her on difficult days, because I could count on her to remind me to fix my eyes on Christ, and also to be full of joy herself, even on her worst days. I never understood how she could walk that way, and to be honest it rather awed me. I think I'm starting to understand it, now, though. One can simply choose every moment of every day to walk in the joy that Christ has given us, or not. So, given the choice, why would we not walk in that joy? Yes, it can be difficult, but also so very easy. It's a matter of surrender to Him, to the work of Him in His Spirit in our heart, and the continued dedication to pursue His glory over our own. When we are pursuing Him, the choice before us to walk in joy or not suddenly becomes so easy, because we are walking in His power, not our own. That's something beyond the power of words to describe. As well, when you're living all-out for God, you really can't not have joy very easily. The more aware that we are of what He has done, the more our hearts will be bursting with joy and excitement for every day. If they are not, it is because we are either allowing our circumstances to speak louder than Him, or because we don't really understand what an immense gift we've been given - or both.

So, to that friend who has lived in joy (you should know who you are): thank you for your testimony. To everyone else: walk in that same amazing, utterly inexpressible joy! Let your heart leap as you think about what Christ did for us, about the fact that we can have communion with God Himself, that our sins are forgiven. Let your heart dance as you come to know Him. And may your days all be filled with peace that surpasses understanding and joy that is inexpressible. My love to you.

- Chris


  1. somehow i have lost the comment i started about twice - i was trying to punch the right code into the box to get into the gated community to take my daughter to her piano lesson - the guy ahead of me jammed it up. this "kid" drove up behind me, kindly got out of his jeep, walked up, unjammed the thing, and punched in a code to let me in. "I bet you do that a lot for us 'mom's,' thanks!" "Yeah," he smiled.

    anyway ...

    thanks for your comment.

    life is hard. i often hear similar things, "... but my hard is not as hard as yours ..." it may be; it may not be. but your hard is your hard and mine is mine. it just is.

    what i try to reveal thru my writing is the reality of living this life as a divorced, single mom. so much of what i've read is candy coated by the time it gets into print. i don't want that. i want people to be able to read what i write and say, "yeah. that's what it's like." divorce just stinks however you slice it. i would never go back into an abusive marriage, but it doesn't change the reality that divorce really stinks.

    "I hope it doesn't sound trite to remind you that your Father does love you more than any man ever could." - no; and thank you.

    . . . . .

    this post is kinda timely for me :)
    psalm 51:12 (i think) says, "restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant a willing spirit to sustain me." i pray that often, and see i need to pray it again. amazing how we need our joy restored! amazing how we need to be granted willing spirits to sustain us.

    yes ... i do know that kind of joy. i have often said, after telling someone all about the current stuff going on, "but, really, overall, i'm doing very well!" and they look at me like i'm nuts! it's not being nuts, it's being full of God's joy.

    remember david's words in psalms when you realize your joy has drifted ... truly God answers this prayer :)

  2. Of course you can link to my blog.

    ...hopefully I'll update more often than my fiancée...


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