JOY

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (I Thess. 1:6)

“Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” – “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy”. That was the jingle occasionally ringing through the office when the secretary got blessed. It blessed us too. She was a solid “Spirit-led” Christian who was not reserved in her witness. If anyone ever wanted a partner in prayer, she was the one to ask. It was a rare occasion when the joy of the Lord was not evident in her life.

I think someone should revive the old “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” song of years ago made popular by the Ren and Stimpy animated cartoon of the 90’s. However the line of narration, “I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs,” needs to be rewritten.

Well, is there a difference between joy and happiness? The above scripture, and others, indicate that there is a joy given by God. When, in the midst of “severe suffering”, one can have joy, then there must be a different kind available only to Christians. A lot of Christian discussion about this usually comes down to: happiness is the result of a good “happening” in the natural, but “real”joy, is only given by God. What, then, would be the difference in the personal experience of the individual? Are these normal emotional responses, or something different?

My personality is somewhat reserved. I’ve often envied those who are real free spirits in the natural and in praise of the Lord. I recall in a church service many years ago when I agreed with a Christian brother that the Spirit of God was powerfully present. He then responded, “Then why don’t you act like it?” Well, I didn’t respond, but was a little hurt by the insinuation that my actions, or rather non-actions, in his mind, were inadequate for a Christian. Now, my heart was full; God’s Spirit was witnessing with my spirit; I was experiencing the joy of the Lord, except I didn’t jump around and yell and consequently didn’t satisfy the brother. I was full of feeling, joy and emotion, it just didn’t squirt out much.

It seems to me that non-Christians do not necessarily separate joy from other expressions of happy emotion. Usually the word ” happy” or ” excited” will cover much of gleefulness. In fact when something good happens, most people will say they are happy, or really happy, or excited, but usually not; “I am full of joy,” or exclaim, “I am so joyful!” The term “joy” seems to be reserved for songs, poetry, prose, or something similar. These emotions can fall under happy, glad, joy, excited and even, I believe, contentment, which might be the residual effect of “happy.” I asked Pat about being happy, and she said, “I’m always happy.” I sort of wanted to use that, “Then why don’t you act like it”, bit, but thought the better of it. Which says, again, that being contented may be the benign counterpart of happiness or joy.

It seems as though Christians experience the joy of the Lord in a variety of ways: music, singing, praise and worship, reading the Bible and in the many ways that will be expressed by being “blessed.” As a former musician, I can listen to, say, the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah and like anyone else be entranced by the intricacies and genius of his composition skills as well as the skills of the musicians. A real mental and emotional experience. In addition, which happens every time I hear it, I will be “blessed” beyond anything of the previous, by the hand of God who touched this man and imbued the work with the glory of heaven. A joy in the depths of my soul that is inexplicable and, I believe, of the Holy Spirit. All Christians have had this same experience with music that is inspired and touched by God. The world knows the former, but not the latter.

All non-Christians, being created in the image of God, experience unconsciously, at least, a knowing that something is not quite right in their lives. As the Bible states, men are without excuse since creation reveals God’s existence. In the depth of everyone’s soul is that spark of His image that until acted upon, causes one to be not complete. So a “free floating anxiety,” as psychology terms it, keeps coming back in those times of quiet desperation that will not allow a contentment of any sustained duration. Their joy is not permanent. On the other hand, joy, being a fruit of the Spirit, should give the Christian that settling in the soul and spirit that everything is in order. We can have peace and joy based on reality that “all is well with my soul.”

Currently, an evangelist national in Burma lives a life of severe persecution inflicted by the general populace and the government. Christians, only because they are so, are often deprived of work and housing, and usually shunned by family. They are unsure of surviving from day to day. As the evangelist stated, “Most of us are struggling just to get our daily food. Yet I feel so happy, because I feel myself that I’m counted worthy to face that kind of persecution for Christ. Whenever we face opposition and whenever we face problems, it draws us closer to God and very soon we feel JOY.” Oh my gosh! Is that the place of the best Godly joy? How can we, in our lives of safety and security draw so close to the Lord that we experience that kind of joy?

And finally, the Old Testament passages of joy are obvious in their predominant emphases on singing and shouting for joy in praise of God. I can’t find any similar passages in the New Testament; new covenant joy is mainly given by the Holy Spirit. It’s almost the same contrast between law and grace. Before the Holy Spirit was “poured out on all flesh,” Israel was mainly exhorted to shout and sing for joy, although not is all cases. After Pentecost, in addition, believers could now be “filled with as inexpressible and glorious joy” through the Holy Spirit (I Pet. 1:8). And today, we can have the same access; the same Holy Spirit; and the same joy, even if it doesn’t squirt out very much.

Comments

  1. Love it. I only have one issue. “Former musican”? Seriously? Please!!!! You will always be the most amazing musician I’ll ever know, Dad!

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