by Tim Mooney
The Word in Scripture
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” This seems so counterintuitive to our American culture. It is your team scoring the winning touchdown in the waning seconds, your spouse buying you a brand new car with a big red ribbon on it for Christmas, your mother winning the lottery, or you choosing the best toothpaste that gives you the best smile that wins the heart of the person you’ve had a crush on forever, that causes us to be filled with joy!
But joy is not the product of only good outcomes. It can be experienced in the midst of loss, tragedy, and death. When we say at memorials, “In life and in death we belong to God,” we are affirming the words of Teilhard de Chardin, who said, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” And God’s presence is always near, for “it is God in whom we live, move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
Here is a story from Matthew Buckley’s book, Chicken in the Headlights, that invites us to choose, find, and see the joy that is within our experiences, waiting to be found:
Grandma said to me, “One of the secrets of life is to find joy in the journey.”
“But Grandma, you weren’t on this journey. It was just crazy–”
Grandma held up her hand. “You have six brothers. You got to spend a whole day in the car with them. You’re all healthy, well fed, happy. Someday, when you’re a little older, I’ll bet you’d give anything to be back in that van of yours with all of your brothers, smelly diapers and all.”
I mulled that over. “Well what about Dad?” I pointed out. “He didn’t find any joy in the journey. He was yelling at trees.”
Grandma sat back, “Your father and mother are masters at finding joy in the journey.”
I didn’t understand.
Grandma continued, “Do you really think your parents would have had seven kids if they couldn’t find joy in the journey? I would be willing to wager that he’ll be laughing about this trip on Monday morning with his friends at work.”
Grandma took my hands into hers. “There are a lot of people in this life that will try to convince you that they’re selling something that will bring you joy. The simple fact of the matter is that things don’t bring you joy. You have to find joy in life experience. And if you take along somebody you love, then that journey is going to be all the more enjoyable. I can promise you right now that both good and bad things are going to happen to you in your life. Good and bad things happen to everybody. Some people are good at finding the miserable things in life, and some are good at finding the joy. No matter what happens to you, what you remember is up to you.”
God of all life, because your presence is always with us, help us in all things to seek out that presence, even if it seems impossible for your presence to be found, and in the seeking not only find but choose the joy that is there, for in doing so we experience ever more deeply your grace and love. Amen.
This week take the time each day to recall experiences of Joy. What are the characteristics? What were the contributing factors? How did joy surprise you? What do you notice? And then, as you think about the day ahead of you, how might you look for joy, seek it out, and find it? How might you choose joy, no matter what you are experiencing? What happens when you choose joy? And one last thought suggestion from Steve Brown, with a smiley face attached at the end: “You ought to live your life with such freedom and joy that uptight Christians will doubt your salvation!”