Friday, February 10, 2012

The Joy (Joy, Joy, Joy) Down in My Heart.

I think, when Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble, I was subconsciously under the impression that He meant we were supposed to be miserable. Early on, I was taught that there is a difference between joy and happiness, something along the lines of happiness being the warm, fuzzy, and rather fickle feeling that depended solely on circumstances, and joy being a theological abstraction that you were somehow supposed to maintain at all times. The distinction seemed very wonderful to me at the time. I was all about definitions; they gave the world lines to color inside of. Clearly, this was back before I liked abstract art.

We all know feelings are, by their very nature, transitory. Which is why we're comfortable calling happiness a feeling, but not joy. Joy is too religious to be fleeting. Still, while I do believe joy is a choice to some degree, I also think it seems suspicious that someone could claim to have joy if there aren't some feelings of happiness, or peace, or something positive stirring inside them. Just like I'd be suspicious if someone claimed to be patient if they were actually fuming on the inside.

But I'm getting bogged down in definitions, and that's not what I intended. Not that my intentions matter all that much. Still, what I'm trying to get at is, it was kind of a revelation for me to discover that God actually likes to see me happy. No, I'm not talking about God-is-your-Santa-Claus theology. Because our ultimate happiness doesn't come from getting a beach house (surprise, surprise). True happiness comes from being in a relationship with Him. You should probably read that last sentence again, because if you're as jaded as I am, it probably went right through you.

God loves to see us smile. He loves to hear us laugh. I know because He tells me. Sometimes He whispers it in my ear when I'm singing to Him. Sometimes He shows me with little gifts, a bluebird stark against a gray sky. Sometimes He speaks it to me through the words of a friend.

Yes, He said we would have trouble. He said we would suffer. Welcome to the broken world. But He also said to take heart. He said that the burden is easy. He said that joy in Him is our strength.

I'll probably never grasp the depths of what joy is. Some mixture of conscious choice, and feeling, and (a ton of) grace. I can't describe it, really. Sort of like lava, or a rapidly-growing vine, or a geyser, surging upwards. And yes, it is something you can feel. It brings happiness with it. It happens when my eyes are fixed on Jesus--even if it's only for a second, a sudden glace in the midst of trouble. It makes me smile.

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