“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice!”
Do we have the right to be joyous? After all, there is so much wrong with the world and our lives, it hardly seems right to speak of joy. It’s a bit like a family preparing to gather for a wedding only to receive the news that the bride has come down with cancer. A pall is cast over everyone. How can there be room for joy in this?
When the Bible gives us the picture of Adam and Eve, before disobedience ravaged them, three things are apparent. First, and most importantly, they were absorbed in the goodness and greatness of God. Secondly, they found delight in the garden, in the creation. Thirdly, they were lost in one another, Adam in Eve and Eve in Adam. What is important to see here is that Adam and Eve lacked self consciousness. They were not self conscious, they were conscious of what was outside the self. When sin entered in, all they could see was themselves. They hid their nakedness and literally attempted to hide from God. And among the great casualties in all of this was joy.
Jesus Christ came to restore us to God, to the creation and to one another. This means that if joy is to be found in this life, it will be found on these three fronts and not in an intensification of self-discovery. This is precisely why there is so little joy in the world today. The more the self looks to itself, the more elusive joy becomes.
St. Paul, sitting in a Roman jail cell, could encourage Christians to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.” In the Lord Jesus, Paul had been restored to God, the deepest source of joy. The difficulties in the temporal circumstances of his life could not overwhelm this joy.
Focusing on the self, at the expense of everything else in life, is a formula for chronic unease and joylessness. Multiply these selves into the millions and you have some idea as to why human life in general, and perhaps your life, look the way they do. Without Christ, life is a joyless, hopeless quest to resolve myself within myself. With Christ, life rings with an authentic joy now – rooted in Him – that will be brought to perfection in the life to come.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”