In his cherished Christmas hymn, Isaac Watts penned these now famous words: “Joy to the World; the Lord is come!” This time of year we are often reminded that we serve a jovial God. In the following post, I would like to briefly reflect on the great reality of joy.
Joy to the World
As I said in a recent post, “God is not a cosmic kill-joy. In fact, He is the Cosmic-Merrymaker!” He is the one who invented taste buds and laughter. Music and dancing were His ideas. In truth, everything good that we enjoy – from sex to sports to sunsets- ultimately finds its origin in the mind of God. As The Velveteen Rabbit said, “Everything that is real was first imagined”.
So, far from being opposed to our joy, God is the source of our joy. But, He is not only the source of the joy we derive from sex and sunsets. He, Himself, is humanity’s supreme joy. As St. Augustine wrote in a prayer to God: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts our restless, until they find rest in you.” In other words, God is the one joy that makes every other joy complete. Apart from a living and loving relationship with God, we cannot truly or fully enjoy His world.
Why? For the same reason we find sleep less restful or food less satisfying when we have relationship troubles with our significant other or a close friend: relational estrangement diminishes creational enjoyment. This principle holds true, but even more so, when it comes to our relationship with God. You see, God is, in fact, our one true love (in a cosmic sense) that we cannot live without. He is the one for whom our souls were ultimately made. Hence, to Augustine’s point, it is only when we are in right relationship with Him (God) that we find proper satisfaction in our relationships with each-other and the world.
Loving and being loved by God makes everything better: food tastes better, music sounds better, work is more fulfilling, sex with our spouse more satisfying, etc. Everything is better because we are no longer looking for food, or sex, or success or our spouse to do for us what only God can do for us in Christ: make us whole and complete, give us an objective identity and purpose, forgive us our sins and fill us with life.
Everything in life takes its proper place and purpose when we realize that God is the center around which everything else in our lives is intended to orbit. Indeed, if we place anything other than God at the center of our lives, we will sabotage our own joy. As the Psalmist says, “the sorrows of those who run after other gods will multiply” (Psalm 16:4). Outside the Bible, probably no one has explained this relationship between God and joy better than C.S. Lewis. He writes:
It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
God is beckoning us all to dethrone whatever good things in our lives are functioning as “gods” (i.e. our objects of highest authority and deepest love) and to serve Him (the one true God) first, instead. In other words, He is inviting us to make Him our highest authority and deepest love. And as the Psalmist and Lewis indicate, doing so allows us to discover our highest good and superlative joy—life with God.
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8, emphasis added)
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