* Today’s post is written with a heavy heart for today many of us lost a grandmother, mother, wife and friend in Bobbie Hanks. She will be sorely missed, but she leaves behind her a beautiful story that is written in the lives of those who knew her and were close with her. It might seem odd to write a post on Joy tonight, but since it is my belief that she is experiencing more fully the goodness of God today, I can’t think of a better thing to talk about.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
What to do with this funny little word? Many of us in fact don’t know what to do with it or would be hard pressed to recognize it even if it was sitting on a bench next to us. A lot of times we equate it with happiness. However this connection, though at times true, does joy a disservice. Happiness is often what we strive for in life, why we want to have a higher paying job, a different city to live in, new friends to hang out with. We think that if we can attain happiness then we have attained life. But this should not be our highest pursuit. I believe in fact that joy should be one of our highest pursuits, and that joy is what our hearts truly long for in the end. Happiness really depends on a feeling of gratification. And though this is not always bad, it is quite limited in its scope.
A shorthand definition for joy is this: experiencing the goodness of God. This goodness can be experienced through the gifts and grace that God extends to us, but it can also be encountered in his righteousness, truth and mercy. It can be seen in what he does for us, in what he does for others and what he is in and of himself. Joy is a delight in God, and what makes this so much more rich and deep and life giving is that it can be done in the highs and lows of our lives. Happiness is really a very narrow experience, for it can really only be had when things seem to work right for us, or when we find pleasure. Joy is a different animal altogether, it is something that can be found even when life seems so disoriented, confused and sorrowful. Life may not seem to be working right with or for us, but through the midst of it we can sense and trust the goodness of God and be sustained by that. Happiness is very temporary, a blowing of the wind, whereas joy is something eternal. Joy points us towards the future and is bound up in a hope that longs for the reconciliation of ourselves and our world with the supremely good God. Joy can outlast pain and evil because deep down it knows it does not have the final word. I think joy often happens when we realize the moments in which we are trusting and hoping in something that is beyond what we are seeing.
So what are we to do with joy? I believe it is our calling to look for and live into the moments of our lives and sense and trust that there is a God who is good and right working through the tapestry of our stories. Yes, we will still feel the pain of death and loss, but our joy is grounded in the hope that those things do not in fact have the final say. There is in fact something beyond those two realities….resurrection.
This we pray. Amen.