Our God is joyful! We discover joy is at the very heart of God’s nature of God and in the expression of God’s being. "God our Father, will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17). Jesus gives joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). The Holy Spirit grows joy: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).
What is joy? A psychologist differentiated between happiness and joy writing, happiness depends on what is going on around us, it is externally focused, whereas joy is based on what is happening within us and is to do with to do with how we are in heart and soul. Joy is ours because our relationship with Jesus fundamentally changes who we are. Of course people who do not know Jesus can have joy, but the difference is that with Jesus joy is complete.
Our joy is not complete without Jesus. A human problem is that while people have joy, it is not complete joy. Something is missing. People mistakenly try to fill the missing piece of joy with happiness, but happiness can never fill this gap. Our joy is like a jigsaw puzzle with a large piece missing. We need the missing piece. It can’t be replaced by taking scissors, cutting a piece of cardboard and colouring it in. This substitute will never quite fit and will always look out of place. The quest for happiness to fill the gap in our joy is unending, unsustainable and unfulfilling. St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Blaise Pascal wrote this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. This has been paraphrased to say there is a God shaped hole in every human life which only God can fill. It is only Jesus who can truly provide the missing piece of every life, including completing the joy which is incomplete without him.
Joy reinforces the strength in our lives. In the Old Testament Nehemiah encouraged the people of Israel saying, the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8:10) People have built with concrete for centuries. However, even concrete buildings remained low rise until the end of the 19th century when reinforced concrete was invented. This new method of construction gave extra strength for building by putting steel inside the concrete. With reinforced concrete, it was not long before the skyline in cities like New York began to change as ever higher buildings were built. Joy reinforces and gives strength to build our lives. The Apostle Paul is a great example of the strength of joy. He wrote while awaiting trial, and possible execution. Philippians has been called the letter of joy. In this letter Paul expresses his own joy and goes on to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
What is your experience of joy?
How can joy give you strength this advent?
Rev John Malcolm