A fragment on joy


October 31, 2012 by jmar198013

At some point–I think maybe a year ago?–we had a special service at the congregation I attend focused on joy, and I was one of the presenters. It must have only been a one or two minute talk.


The author of Hebrews wrote that, “Because of the joy awaiting him, [Jesus] endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Heb. 12.2). These words remind us that joy, like its cousin hope, is a transcendent virtue. C.S. Lewis wrote that “joy always reminds beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” Joy is not a feeling. It isn’t an emotion. Rather, it is a motion. A running toward. A reaching. A leaning into. Joy does not resign itself to the present reality. Joy trusts that there is something better beyond the now. Because joy reminds and beckons. You have been loved. There has been peace. The world has known commonwealth. The voice of joy is what beckons us to walk through whatever the reality of now is, trusting that there will be love and peace and commonwealth again. The joyful are capable of so moving ahead, because joyful people are able to recall love and peace and commonwealth in the midst of betrayal, violence, and isolation. That is what is called rejoicing. Those who can rejoice are able to endure the cross before them, disregarding its shame, because all their “best havings are wantings.” And their longing is their strength.


3 thoughts on “A fragment on joy

  1. Jack Hairston says:

    Do you suppose that has anything to do with the common Greek greeting (καιρε or kaire), which translates as “rejoice?”

  2. jmar198013 says:

    It may very well. I remember once Anne Lammott telling a story about her preacher talking about rejoicing. She said in order to re-joice, you had to have some “joice” in you already.

  3. jmar198013 says:

    Jack: I also found this commentary on Phil. 4.4 interesting:

    “In some forms of Christian culture the worry about control and balance has been such an emphasis that anything like joy which is spontaneous is embarrassing. Such people find it much easier to express joy with a heavily structured sphere of discourse, such as in the words of a hymn. Paul is surprisingly strong in his affirmation and expression of emotions. In his day it ran against the grain of those popular philosophers, like the Stoics, who cautioned restraint in all matters regarding feeling as a way of lowering one’s vulnerability to bad experiences.

    Why do we leave joy to those who compose songs which make happiness sound like pastry and conjure a false image of a “victorious” life of constant highs? Joy need not be something superficial. Sometimes our distaste for excesses leads to a neglect of this very vital human experience. People need to know about joy just as much as they need to know about pain. We have similar mechanisms for avoiding both and for leaving the field to shallow renderings.

    Paul’s “always” is not a quantitative assertion of the kind that implies joy in every moment. Joy is never alone. Its companions are pain and fear. At times Paul’s letters display more of some than the other. Paul’s sense of joy is not the absence of pain or fear, but the presence of Christ, in whom he places his hope and trust. The deep human need to belong, the joy of belonging, is met for Paul in Christ. That unity takes him into pain and death, and, as he often emphasises, leads him over and over again on a journey from death to life, from pain to joy. Sometimes his joy stays alight as a flickering flame amid an oppressive darkness of criticism and downright hate. But it remains and can flare into brightness at relief and change.”

    You can read the whole thing here: http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/AEpPentecost17.htm

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