Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Oh, For Joy!

I can't get over it. There was something going on in the minds of all the followers of Jesus after he was crucified and then raised out of the grave, that keeps coming back to surprise me and to make me, well, a little envious. Matthew, Luke and John all mention that the disciples, once they got over their shock at seeing Jesus again, were full of -- get this -- joy! Where did that come from, and can I get some more of it? 

The disciples knew Jesus was really dead (not "mostly dead," the famous line from the movie "The Princess Bride"). They had taken his limp, bloody dead body, wrapped it up and put it in the tomb. So it's understandable they reacted with joy -- "filled with joy" or "overjoyed" is a common translation of John 20:20.

Here's another reason for their joy and ours -- Psalm 45:7 says of the Messiah "God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." Most of the visual portrayals of Jesus show him with some kind of solemn look, but Jesus was filled with joy, and he promised that joy to us also! In John 15:11 Jesus says "I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" Many other passages in the Gospels talk about joy, and joy is also one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23).

Honestly, would you say that your life is filled with joy? If not, what keeps you from feeling Jesus' joy? (Hint: if you think it's someone else's fault, start over.) Here are a few joy-stealers, and you can add your own:
--Worry about finances and the future
--Worry about health and strength, including worry about who will take care of you in the future, or of your loved ones if you become unable
--Physical pain and suffering
--Worry about your sins

How can we have more joy? We have Jesus, the man anointed 'with the oil of joy', living in us by the Holy Spirit who lives in us; so we have a right to that same joy as Jesus! It won't help to "work harder at feeling joy." Rather, you and I can start by spending more time looking at Jesus instead of at our worries. That is the core of the matter.

How do we focus more on Jesus? Adele Calhoun's spiritual toolbox book has several tools for multiplying our joy. She lays out suggestions for celebration, gratitude, meditation, contemplation, worship and several kinds of prayer -- all of which can help us focus on the God who is good, and Jesus, who is our source of joy. You and I can decide to take some time to learn and then use those practices. Or, we could just spend the same amount of time continuing to worry. Which do you think would lead to more joy?

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