Born for Joy
As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you--in person, not in heart--we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again--but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20)
I am starting to sense some thing big emerging into my consciousness, something existential in nature. We sometimes ask why we are alive, what is the purpose of our existence? We offer all sorts of attempted explanations for this, many distorted by our natural selfish desires. But what I am starting to perceive is something far bigger, far more deeply satisfying, rich and meaningful.
We were created to live life on this earth primarily to leverage opportunities to form bonds of joy with as many other people as possible before we enter into eternity after this life.
That is the simple way of expressing it, but this needs to be unpacked to begin to grasp the enormity and intensity of what it actually means. Yet I am starting to sense that this is in fact the highest priority that God created for us to have but is largely overlooked, ignored or lost because of our fallen natures. We are also inhibited and limited because of damage caused by abuse and neglect.
Sin in all its forms is by design intent on destroying our capacity for joy, while salvation is God's purpose to restore us into this life-giving atmosphere rich in love. Joy by definition is the deep bonds of intimate emotional attachment experienced between beings who have capacity for emotional bonding. And while it is possible to experience some level of joy with animals (and I believe God intended that for us), to live in joy-bonded relationships with humans and God is our primary purpose and design.
Satan hates joy, for joy inevitable draws us toward God the source of all joy. Satan is hell bent on overthrowing God's government based on family style joy-bonded people. So it should come as no surprise that everything involved in sin is designed to either destroy joy or to offer counterfeits to joy to divert and prevent us from knowing the kind of joy meant to align us with the circuit of life.
Without true joy in our lives we gravitate toward death. Without feeling valued by someone else we lose motivation to live. Every human (and this applies to many animals as well) is by design required to experience joy to some extent in order to thrive or even survive. This has been proven repeatedly in experiments with babies who cannot survive without experiencing some level of joy through means of touching and emotional nurturing in various ways.
What brought this to my attention today was the sudden realization that after Paul was converted and transformed during a few years of reeducation in the true ways of God, he spent the rest of his life seeking to connect in joy with as many people as possible at the heart level. As his own heart was warmed and softened by the love of Jesus bringing joy to a man who had so fiercely opposed it during previous years of persecution against embracers of joy, he realized that the best way to live life from then on was to work tirelessly to create as much joy as possible with as many as possible.
When a person becomes truly converted they enter into the joy of the Lord that Jesus mentioned while He lived among us. Jesus came to this earth to restore joy to humanity as we were dying for lack of it.
- Joy is the most mentioned emotion connected with the birth of Jesus experienced by angels and humans, both rich and poor. (Mt 2:10; Luke 1:14, 44; 2:10)
- Jesus instructs us to leap for joy when we are persecuted for serving Him. (Luke 6:23)
- Seed represents the Word of God received with joy. (Mt 13:20; Luke 8:13)
- Joy motivates a man who finds hidden treasure in a field to buy the whole field so as to own it for himself. (Mt 13:44)
- Joy is the reward for servants who have been faithful with what was entrusted to them by their Master. (Mt 25:21, 23) This same thing was the motivation relied on by Jesus to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. (Heb 12:2)
- When 70 disciples returned from spreading the wonderful news of a new kingdom coming through Jesus, they found themselves filled with joy. (Luke 10:17)
- Luke 15 contains three stories with punchline celebrations of joy because sinners have been reconnected into the bonds of love in the family of God.
- Every mention of joy in the gospel of John is related to the desire of Jesus for His followers to be connected with Him in this way, for them to enter into the fulness of His own joy, His enjoyment of being connected with them. (John 3:29; 15:11; 16:20-24; 17:13)
- As with His birth, all the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus are marked by joy for those who loved Him. (Mt 28:8; Luke 24:41, 52)
- The book of Acts describes what joy does to people who become filled with God's joy and just have to spread it to others. (Acts 2:28; 8:8; 13:52; 15:3; 20:24)
A few more observations about joy that can be helpful.
- Joy springs from reconnection to our own true identity as God sees and values us.
- Restoration of our true identity is what salvation is all about.
- We cannot truly love others without a sense of secure identity at least beginning to take root in our own hearts. (To love your neighbor as yourself does not work well if you hate yourself.)
- As we start out from a condition of selfishness, pride or self-hatred or feelings of worthlessness, we must have outside love to awaken self-respect and other-centered love within us before we can enter into true joy with others. This very process of being loved by someone else as they work to salvage our heart creates bonds of joy with them.
- Joy involves concentric circles. We must practice joy and keep it most intense at the center of our lives before we can effectively and safely spread it to more outlying relationships.
- Joy is primarily conveyed through the face and particularly the eyes. (Acts 2:28)
- Joy provides emotional strength which in turn affects our health in every aspect.
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved." And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Nehemiah 8:9-12)