Many years ago I ran across the statement that the muscles required to place a frown on the human face were double those that bring on a smile. I have never been able to validate the statement, but somehow, it ‘felt’ right! It amused me at the time and does so still! We believe that God created us in His image, and marred though we became, He was and is the glad Creator and stamped that likeness even on our faces! Should it be any surprise if, when He imaged Himself forth, consistent with His glad heart, the creatures formed to best show Him forth should find a smile effortless and a frown hard work?
Probably some of us do not easily associate God with utter joy, the darkening gloom that entered the world through the Tempters voice has almost obliterated the idea but a steady look at scripture will bring welcome light. We find no gloom at the beginning as the Bible reveals it, only the actions of a God overflowing in creative imaginative work bringing joy to the watching “sons of God.” They and the “morning stars” sang together and shouted for joy for they had never seen such things; nor conceived of them (Job 38:4-7). These are the words God uses to speak to His downcast child Job. He answers none of His questions and instead rebukes and comforts him with words that are magnificent and frightening yet always tinged with a kind of lightness; an almost ‘tongue in cheek’ happiness. In the gloom of Job’s despondency the warming, liberating power of God’s joy melts the heart frozen with grief. This is God speaking, revealing the atmosphere in which all things were created. I remember reading the section in the Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien in which he most movingly writes of the creating work of the Supreme Being Eru Iluvatar as He incorporates angelic beings into what He is doing and delights to show the themes of creation to them through music. The whole narrative, as Tolkien pens it, is shot through with the unmistakable tones of sheerest joy and encourages wonder at God and His ways in the heart of the sensitive reader.
[superquote]Probably some of us do not easily associate God with utter joy, the darkening gloom that entered the world through the Tempters voice has almost obliterated the idea but a steady look at scripture will bring welcome light[/superquote]
It is intriguing that all this music was utterly harmonious until evil came as a horrendous discord to mar the intricate beauty of God’s creating. Tolkien then goes further and ends in one of his stories with the fact that even the enemies’ discord is somehow overcome and incorporated into the music of God and ‘used’ to obtain a fullness of sound not realized originally. In all this imagery he is hitting on truth. Somehow, even when all is darkest “there is a light that surprises,” and the words of C.S. Lewis come to mind when he writes of being “Surprised by Joy.” These are the three words he chose as the title of his autobiography. He was brought to Christ and he always felt that his subsequent walk with Him had the element of joy ever in the background and infecting all things with hilarity impossible to express. It was more that Christ came to him than he to Christ and this is true Christian experience for sure. Christ comes to us, and He continues to come as the Light that has joy at its heart. He comes piercing through the melancholy of history. The more we walk with God the more we will understand that the world in which we presently live with all its misery and heaviness is the unreal world and the light of joy that pierces through from time to time comes from the world that is real, the original world, that which God created in the fullness of its perfection. That evil one has contrived every means possible to hide what really is the world of the true. This present evil world lies under him and is one immense, pretentious mask. His chief method is to constantly enforce and reinforce this broken darkened world as being the real and not so bad after all.
[superquote]Yet the soul has an intuition that there must be joy, light and lasting happiness. [/superquote]
Yet the soul has an intuition that there must be joy, light and lasting happiness. The light shone in darkness, breaking through from time to time and the eye of faith beheld, believed and clung on looking to God for “that city whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). This is but one of a multitude of expressions describing the attitude of those who sensed the joy of God and went after Him. Such people of faith believed that the world was created by the word of God and therefore the things that are seen are a distortion and they were looking for the in-breaking of the remedy, that time when joy unspeakable and full of glory should come banishing the darkness forever. It is not by mistake that the world’s story tellers have dwelt upon the themes of light and darkness, of love and romance, of heroism and deliverance from evil forces and almost without exception these incomings of relieving light and joy came when all seemed lost. The savior came, the powers of darkness destroyed and the new world, so often the old restored, yet better, brought in. I have often chuckled (and been saddened) at the same time when I have been in a supermarket or shopping mall at Christmas time in Malaysia. Yes, Malaysia is a Moslem country, but over the store comes the strains of the hymn “Joy to the World the Lord is come”! Amazing isn’t it? In the USA such has been banned as far as I know, imagine forbidding joy! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the in breaking of the Joy of the Lord, “joy to the world, the Lord is come!” Not that which brought relief from the enemy for a season till he rises again, but He Who came to fight and bring permanent consolation.
Do we recall the sense of consolation that came when the dreadful darkening seemed to have the field and at last the light came? Movies so often build up to that moment with all its relief. They are but indicators and shadows of the real, at last the archenemy is overcome and destroyed by the hero of the piece and the new dawn breaks to flood a renewed world with light! The relief, comfort and consolation of joy are palpable when that happens! “Happy ever after,” at last! In the beginning God, God the eternally joyful, God the Trinity, blessed Communion of Three Persons in One. Father looking upon Son and Son upon Father in sheerest pleasure of joy and the Spirit the Spirit of Eternal pleasure are a few words attempting to capture a thought of what “the joy of the Lord” is. The Trinity of love, needing nothing, self satisfied, if we may so say, and joy is intrinsic to that love. God dwells in joy for He is love and it is in that love and joy He happily does all His works. Remember what is produced in the church that allows the Holy Spirit to bring forth His harvest, the fruit of the Spirit and its manifestations. It is not by chance that the descriptive list of nine things begins with “love” and then is immediately followed by “joy” and so the other qualities unfold (Galatians 5:22). Where there is love so there will be joy and joy will be a pervasive element in the longsuffering and gentleness and self control of which Paul writes. Life infused with joy, the joy of the Lord is what he is talking about.
[superquote]“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”[/superquote]
We all remember the verse in Nehemiah, so often quoted “do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Two thousand years ago the Joy of the Lord came into this present darkness. Jesus, Son of the Father, He Who had ever been the joy of the Father. No wonder the great cry of the angel rang through the cold night air on the night of His birth and the shepherd hearts were amazed at the news “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). For all the people, not a few, no longer momentary glimpses of joy coming from far, piercing the darkness of one nation Israel, but a “light for the revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). If we could all honestly own the fact, there is homesickness in the hearts of all, a longing for that ‘lost world’ of love and joy, of light and happiness. This is probably what lies at back of children’s fairy stories that yet appeal to their parents unless the dread darkness of cynicism has eclipsed them. We long for a wonderland, it is not fantasy, all the best fantasy is strangely reminiscent of that world we know must be real somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ is God! C.S.Lewis passed the remark that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” That phrase always brings a smile to my heart; it is the fascinating blend of three words mixed together, ‘joy,’ ‘serious’ and ‘business’ that causes the chuckle! Think about the bankers we’ve heard so much about of late, and the zealous moneymakers of our world going about their business seriously!
[superquote]The joy of the Lord in His eternal heavenly life as Three Persons in One Being is the joy of Their relationships of love. This is why we cannot find lasting joy on this earth with ‘things.’[/superquote]
What a contrast. I even think of church in this regard, how many of us have gone about the ‘serious business’ of evangelism and church growth and yet, often under the whip of a sense of dutifulness and little spontaneous joyful happiness? The joy of the Lord in His eternal heavenly life as Three Persons in One Being is the joy of Their relationships of love. This is why we cannot find lasting joy on this earth with ‘things.’ We may pursue creature comforts for all we are worth but they will not provide the souls true need. The Christian’s joy is to be found in the eternal life of relationship with God, Father, Son and Spirit in the midst of the changing ebb and flow of circumstances here upon earth. Going back to that idea of a smile being more natural than a frown indicates that we were made for joy, that we were fashioned unto an eternal life of love relationships with God and other creatures. This is why joy is one of the main hallmarks of the Christian. Let me say again, we are made for joy! When Jesus said, “I have told you this that My joy may be in you and your joy might be complete,” (John 15:11) He was indicating that our very inner structure as human beings facilitates receiving His joy and as we do, our own (in other legitimate things) is made complete. If we go out to seek joy first we shall be disappointed. Positive thinking is no lasting answer.
[superquote]Remember again the order in Galatians Chapter five, “love, and then joy”. Go out to love first. [/superquote]
Remember again the order in Galatians Chapter five, “love, and then joy”. Go out to love first. Begin with your relationship with God, love Him first, love your neighbor, enter into a relationship of self-giving, caring love with those about you and observe a subtle change take place within. Misery and complaint and negativity will begin to be displaced by joy. Happiness comes of loving others; joy seeks out the person learning to love. The joyful heart is the natural companion of the loving heart. The sad spectacle of those going out “for a good time” comes to mind, seeking something to quench their inner emptiness, the underlying unhappiness based on a sense of guilt they are unwilling to acknowledge or face, and the result we have all observed. The Christian heart rejoices in forgiveness and learns to embrace the amazing fact that all creation approves of him, at last he (and she) is coming ‘into sync’ with all that is made. This may sound strange to some of us because we have tended to live the Christian life in a rather dutiful way. We are shocked to think that God is pure joy; something more rigorous was in our mind. Do we expect joy? Do we think it might be a bit improper to really “be glad in the Lord and rejoice? We often fall between two stools, either we take ourselves, and our Christian work too seriously, or we fail to take those seriously enough! In the first we feel it inappropriate to let the light of joy shine through and on the other we are too superficial to take real joy seriously! Let God sort these imbalances out! The Bible translation by James Moffat can sometimes be a bit frustrating, but on occasions he seems to capture something, for instance he writes, “Let us enjoy the peace we have with God” (Romans 5:1). Do I? “We enjoy our confidence of free access” (Ephesians 3:12). Do we enjoy, really enjoy what God has given us? “He richly provides us with all the joys of life” (1 Timothy 6:17). Be a simple, trusting soul and know the Giving God Who is always lavishly pouring out gifts both spiritual and natural and live receiving these as He sends them, in times of plenty and need. Such simplicity will result in the wellbeing and normality for which man was originally created and we will be in harmony right at our innermost center and this will ring through our souls and bodies too and we shall shine joyfully wherever we are. A joyful heart will be ours.