Surprised by Joy

For no particular reason, I began thinking about joy. Perhaps God was preparing to teach me something or I was ready to receive it. It occurred to me that joy is the basic disposition of all God's people. I once read that, “Joy is the flag that flies over the castle of our hearts announcing that the king is in residence today.”

Joy is everywhere in the Bible. This is particularly true of the Old Testament. In the Hebrew language, there are thirteen Hebrew roots and twenty-seven different words for Joy! And while there are fewer words in Greek, in the whole Bible, joy is the subject almost 400 times.

Joy is something that fills a person (Ps 4:7; 16:11), and is frequently associated with the heart (Ps 4:7; 19:8). “The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart” (Prov 15:30). The heart can leap (Ps 28:7) or “throb and swell with joy” (Is 60:5). Our tongues are filled with “songs of joy” (Ps 126:2), and a joyful heart brings forth song (Is 65:14). This energetic welling up of emotion frequently manifests itself in shouting and singing (approximately two dozen references for each), so that the psalms resound with a chorus of shouts and songs of joy.

Even creation joins its voice in joy. “Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.” (Ps 89:12); “then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice” (Ps 96:12); the hills are called to “be joyful together” (Ps 98:8); and as God restores Israel, the heavens and earth are called upon to sing and shout for joy (Is 44:23; 49:13)

We need to discover that joy is not something that we can find by searching. It is not something that we manufacture or discover or earn. Joy is neither about happiness nor pleasure. There is nothing wrong with happiness, but it really does not take much to make us happy. Certainly God is the inventor of pleasure even if we sometimes abuse it. But joy is something deeper. It is a disposition of the soul, a condition of existence. Joy is the result of being in relationship with God.

In fact, it is when we break that relationship that we discover the loss of joy. And when we lose that joy, we wonder if we will ever get it back.

King David sinned greatly and broke the strong relationship he had with God. As a consequence of that, David experienced a great deal of pain. He was overwhelmed by his sins and he desired the restoration of joy. His joy was gone. Joy was missing from his life. The story is in 2 Samuel 11.

It was the spring time, the time when kings go to war. But that year David did not go. He sent Joab, his general, out in his place. But David was restless. One sleepless night he went to the roof of his palace And from there he saw Bathsheba, taking a bath.

You know what happened. He had a torrid affair with Bathsheba. She became with child and David had Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, sent on a suicide mission so that he might cover up the wrong doing. David thought that everything was taken care of. But, Nathan the prophet confronted the king and brought word of God's judgment. Later the child died. David was guilty of adultery, deceit, lying, and murder. Furthermore, David was guilty of defying God. It was from that sin and that confrontation with God that David wrote the words of remorse and repentance that we find in Psalm 51.

What does one do when we have sinned? The answer is to acknowledge your sins and plead for the mercy of God, which is exactly what David did. David knew that he had sinned. He had hidden it from others but he could not hide it from God or from himself. It festered up inside him like a splinter in a finger. Soon his soul was throbbing and full of corruption. It was when he could stand it no longer that he went to God in prayer and began to pour out his dark, sinful soul to God. His heart wails to God, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions."

David could stand it no longer. He confessed that he was a sinner born of a sinner. He pleaded for God to purify him so that he would be clean and to wash him so that he might be whiter than snow. He knew that his sin made him unclean and that his soul was black with sin.

What he wanted most of all was for God to restore unto him the joy of his salvation. Salvation brings with it unspeakable joy, joy at being free for eternity from our sin. Joy comes at being in a living, active relationship with God. It is the sense of contentment that comes from being redeemed. But that joy can be marred and even taken away by our sin, though our saved relationship with God will never be revoked. We have no right to joy when we are in violation of God's Law.

In order to be restored to joy, David asked for three things. One, hide thy face from my sins. Don't hide your face from me, but from my sins. O God, in your mercy do not look at my sins. It is embarrassing that I should cause my righteous God to see my sin, turn, look the other way.

Secondly, blot out my iniquities, another word for sin. Cover them up. Separate them from me as far as the east is from the west and remember my sins no more. And thirdly, create in me a clean heart. David was not satisfied with just being forgiven, he wanted to be restored to that precious relationship with God when his heart was clean and God's Holy Spirit was guiding him and empowering him and leading him.

The result would be, not only a clean heart and restored joy and a fresh relationship with God, he would tell others what God wanted. He would become a witness, an evangelist for God. He would tell others that God is not pleased with religious acts such burnt offerings. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (v. 17)

I believe that joy is missing from the live of a lot of Christians. I have noticed that the very lack of joy is the theme in the way many live. Life is a grind. It is colorless and without flavor. They often do the same things over and over again as if they live on a cosmic treadmill. But if we are people redeemed by grace, shouldn't our lives be filled with joy? Should not the flag fly high over our castle declaring that the king is in?

If joy is missing, we need to wonder why. Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. ” (Phi. 4:4) In fact, he said that little word, eight times in four short chapters. Joy was a major theme of Paul. He got carried away and in I Thessalonians, he said to “Rejoice evermore.” (1Th 5:16)

If joy is missing, it must be one of two things. If you are not saved, you cannot experience or express the joy that God gives us. But, if you are saved and you have no joy, could it be because of unconfessed sin in your life? Do you refuse to let go of your favorite sin? The result is, you are missing out on the very best of the Christian life.

Home | Christian Living | Catholic Stuff | PTG Forum
(C) 1994-2008 Ron Loeffler