We talked long the other night about the mystery of Joy, how it comes from God and bears little resemblance to the human emotion by the same name. We noticed the unexpected connections, how thanksgiving was inextricably linked to joy, our praise giving honor to the Giver; how trust is the act of recognizing and bowing to the beauty of His nature; how hope springs from acknowledging His power and sovereignty, believing His promises are steadfast and true. It’s as if we were a mirror, and turning our focus on who He is and what He is doing reflects His glory everywhere, lighting up our lives with our enjoyment of Him….Joy shining in us like a candle in the darkness.
It will take time, this unraveling of all the threads woven through one large intangible concept. Is praise an overflowing of joy in our hearts?…or does joy flow when we lift up our voices to praise? And do we trust because we have hope that His promises are all solidly true?…or do we hope because we trust in His solid faithfulness? It doesn’t really matter, except when we try to pry it all apart and find out how it works, so that we understand. The answers are all Yes and Amen in the person of Christ. All the questions boil down to a matter of perspective– it’s all in what we look at, where our hearts are dwelling.
See, joy is not a thing. Not a skill. Not an experience. We study joy because we want to find it, and possess it– we know instinctively that we cannot live without it. Instead we are finding that joy comes from relationship, the response of the human soul to the One who gave it life. And all these habits we can cultivate are not a way to attain some quality, but rather a matter of learning to live in His presence and to know Him more fully– that’s why Paul tells us “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ – that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:2, The Message) When we see things the way God does and participate in the work He is doing, finally stop looking for joy…it comes looking for us, and it is a mystery wilder and brighter than we realized.
So we are counting in our journals for the next two weeks, five things to be thankful for every day, and “no repeats.” Seventy all told, written on the pages so we will remember, and I find it is like priming a pump to look for His goodness: the more I count the more I can see Him everywhere. Seventy may be only the beginning by the end of two weeks, and hope and trust unfurling new shoots as the praises continue to flow. It takes practice to turn our eyes on what is unseen and not get distracted by the demands of the unavoidably real everyday; we will choose to praise, choose to trust, choose to hope in His promises…and discover that joy is right there where He is, and all we had to do was step into the Light.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
“We bury our swollen prayers in Him who’s raised from the tomb.We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good.” Ann VosKamp
“The root of joy is gratefulness … It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” (David Steindl-Rast)