Joy  

Posted by greyhound in ,



Sorry I missed last week. We had that whole natural disaster, no power, no internet, middle ages pastiche going on. It was actually probably a good thing, because I’ve been struggling with this one and thinking about it for awhile.

Back to the Question:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

But what could be so hard about, “enjoying him (God), forever”? Why struggle with this? Isn’t this the fun part? I don’t know, maybe I don’t understand “joy” or maybe I don’t understand “God” or maybe I just need the practice.

I know, I know, The Book says, “The Joy of the Lord is [my] strength,” (Nehemiah 8:10) and “rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) And I try, or at least I think I do. But pretty much every time God made his presence known to a human being in the bible, there wasn’t joy; there was terror. The first words out of God's mouth, or that of his angels is always, "fear not." So, I don’t think I’m the only one that has trouble equating God with “fun” or joy, as opposed to seriousness and awe and holiness and fear. After all, The Book also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Psalm 111:10) and even “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalms 2:11). Rejoice with trembling?? What IS that?

And what about joy? In the way The Book uses the term it has to be something more than joy in the sense of “wow, that was fun,” or “boy, that food was good,” or “I loved those praise songs we sang this morning.” James, the brother of Jesus, says, for example, “consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your fatih develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3. And “Blessed [or happy] is the man who perseveres under trial . . .” James 1:12. Joy? Trials? And the Psalmist talks about “desir[ing] nothing on earth” when he is with God. Psalm 73:5. That’s a whole different kind of joy or happiness than watching a good movie or a fun evening out. This is not an undemanding joy or cheap grace.

So, with God, I have this problem. The Book tells me that “love,” is his very essence. The Book tells me that he is longsuffering and slow to anger, infinite in mercy. But The Book also tells me he is all powerful, holy and perfect. I know very well that I am week, unholy and imperfect. How does a sullied and limited creature like me have any “joy” and fellowship with an unsullied and limitless God? How do we even understand each other?

About the last time a human being is recorded as having hand-in-hand fellowship with God was Adam before the fall of man. After the fall, which is my current condition, Adam didn’t enjoy God. Adam hid from God. Look around and you see mankind at war with God, not enjoying him. As a Christian, I know that Christ is supposed to be the bridge that reconciles me to God, so why is it so hard? And not just for me. It was hard for Superstars like the Apostle Paul. Even Paul begged to be set free from his struggle. (See Romans 7:14-25)

I was thinking about it this morning, and wondered that maybe what’s going on here is somewhat the same thing as when sedentary folks having no idea how endurance athletes can take pleasure in their effort. Or maybe like when mid-packers like me watch an elite athlete. Look for example at Kara Goucher pictured above. I can only dimly imagine the amount of pain and effort behind an elite 10k like she is just completing, but surely there is joy in her face. Indeed, I can only dimly imagine the amount of joy she's experiencing.

Similarly, to a sedentary person, how could I possibly “enjoy” training. What joy is there in a 3 hour long run or a century ride? How many times have you been called “crazy” for suffering like that? And was any of this fun or “joyful" when you first began it. Maybe it was always fun and easy for you, but I remember quite well the first training runs--the pain, the discouragement, the struggle. This was not fun. Now, however, after a little practice, and a little success, the training sessions are play, they are joy. In fact, they are usually (though not always) the best part of my day. But it still doesn’t look like fun to the sedentary crowd who call us “crazy” while they eat, drink or smoke themselves into sickness and death. And yet we’re crazy.

So, maybe my lack of Christian joy is partly a lack of practice. Maybe I’m a sedentary Christ follower. Do I need to work out more and improve my spiritual diet? More fruit of the spirit, maybe? Do I need more practice with God? If I do, will the pain and discomfort lessen? Will this feel less like work? More like play? How do I find the joy?

Now, go run. See you next week.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 26, 2008 at 7:50 PM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

6 comments

Greyhound - that was, at the very least, quite thought provoking. I am not much for any standard dogma about God and I generally only see the glory of God in a magnificent sunrise or a fabulous vista and I'm not crazy about the idea of finding joy being work but you make a very good point.

September 26, 2008 at 11:13 PM

I am always amused by the fear comments made by both the religious and non religious. And when I say amused, I don't mean from some kind of superiority mindset, it just simply fascinates me.

I think that "the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom" says exactly what it states! The beginning of wisdom. If we think about it, even the thought that there is an all powerful, that created everything and that could smite everything (whether or not that would be part of his character) is pretty fearful. It would be a good start to fear such power and it would be a good start not to oppose such power! Wouldn't it?

My understanding is that the original word translated to fear was "phobos", however due to differences in languages a more appropriate definition of phobos would be awe.

Unfortunately in todays society, fear is either used as either terror or ignored. Terror, as in we are to imagine a God sitting up in the clouds looking down for any mistake for us to make so he "can set things right". Or fear is ignored and thus people act without any thought of what God thinks.

I think realizing that it is an "awe" we are to have for God, which granted is most easily seen as 21st century mentioned in a sunrise (as one example).

Also, the verse above says the beginning of wisdom. Doesn't that suggest that there is further wisdom?

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 14:16,18).

I loved your statements about Joy!

And we do need to find joy in things other than our training.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
1 Timothy 4:8 (New International Version)

September 27, 2008 at 8:00 AM

Very interesting post, and I enjoyed the bible verses. I think I will write a few of those down to think about over this next week - thank you!! In terms of joy, I do understand your musings, and I too have trouble with seeing how all of these things work together to produce joy in our lives sometimes. Does someone feel joy when they find out they have cancer, of course not, yet they may end up doing something else that helps others to deal with the same issues and that in itself brings a sense of joy and meaning or purpose. I once heard a quote that said "when I am running, and doing my best, I feel God's pleasure" We are given talents for a reason, each one of us, how we use them, and how we show God's love to others separates us from just doing these things for ourselves (or at least I hope so). I do feel his joy at times when I am out giving thanks for the birds, and the fresh air and the trees and my health, and it rises up within me!! Good post!

September 29, 2008 at 2:41 PM

Read this-
It may not give you any answers, but it may give you reasons.

http://www.zenmoments.org/the-cab-ride-ill-never-forget/

September 29, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Greyhound - that gave me chill bumps. I struggle with the same thing. I even become skeptical as to who God really is because I can't always seem to relate to what the Bible tells me his is, and how DO you enjoy Him? But when you equated it to a sedentary person wondering how we enjoy a long run or bike...wow...that really hit me hard. Perhaps I am out of spiritual shape, too. Thank you for such a wonderful and honest post. Keep them coming.

September 29, 2008 at 10:32 PM

Joy is one of the fruits of the spirit. A tree only produces fruit only when it has more than enough nourishment to survive. The tree must be continuously connected to the source of its nourishment and must receive adequate sunshine. In the same way Joy (and the other fruits) are the natural result of abiding in Christ.

April 1, 2009 at 10:13 PM

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