This is a journal entry from a few weeks ago that seemed appropriate given the theme of joy that characterizes the Advent and Christmas season (or the painful lack of joy some suffer more acutely at this time of year). I hope that this will encourage and strengthen your heart as it has mine.
There’s a GK Chesterton quote I have written in my home management binder that got me thinking the other day…
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
In Genesis we read that God created everything. And He said it was good.
As humans we delight in our own creative works—how much more, then, does God?
If our greatest project to date is broken or corrupted, if our best artwork goes unappreciated, we may lose heart, but even though God’s good creation has been broken and corrupted by sin and unappreciated by His creatures, He does not lose heart. He is being creative still in working all things together according to His will and pleasure. Like a master chess player takes great joy and delight in taking whatever move his opponent makes and using it to his advantage. Or how a composer uses all the instruments, notes, dynamics, and dissonance to make a beautiful piece of music. Contrary to how I might imagine Him at times, God has great joy! He isn’t some brooding but somehow benevolent grandpa in the sky. He is a divine, cosmic orchestrator, enjoying and delighting in His own work!
Psalm 16 ends with a rather exuberant declaration:
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
At one time in my life I read this verse and thought that the joy to be found in God’s presence was in the heart of the creature delighting in God, but my view was strained because while I had imagined that those who are in God’s presence must somehow be moved to great joy, I still imagined God Himself as somehow still quite austere, even stoic and grave. But that is not how the scriptures paint Him. He is holy and righteous. But He is also love and peace and delight.
If the believer’s love to God is made possible because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and because He Himself IS love (v. 16), then it seems quite plausible that our joy and delight in Him stems from His own joy and delight in Himself and in His works.
If joy and laughter are contagious, as I am told, then our joy in the presence of God need not be somehow mustered up within us—we need only to see Him as He is, and then we will be like Him (1 John 3:1-3).
As for this side of eternity, where we do not currently see the Lord face to face, we have this promise from Jesus in John 17: “these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.” He has given us His word for our joy in this life—not merely as a tool so that we can conjure up our own joy, but so that we would have His joy made full in us.
All of these meditations brought this hymn to mind. I particularly like the arrangement found here.
Thou lovely Source of true delight,
Whom I unseen adore;
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight,
That I may love Thee more.
Thy glory o’er creation shines;
But in Thy sacred Word,
I read in fairer, brighter lines,
My bleeding, dying Lord.
’Tis here, whene’er my comforts droop,
And sins and sorrows rise,
Thy love with cheerful beams of hope,
My fainting heart supplies.
Jesus, my Lord, my Life, my Light,
O come with blissful ray;
Break radiant through the shades of night,
And chase my fears away.
Then shall my soul with rapture trace
The wonders of Thy love;
But the full glories of Thy face
Are only known above.
God is not merely unmoved or unsurprised when things on earth seem chaotic, upended, or just plain bad. Our blessed God is joyfully working out His plans through it all. He is delighting in His children, His creation; and He rejoices when a wayward one comes home to Him through faith and repentance (Luke 15:7). Though God hates and grieves our sin, and though He sympathizes with our weaknesses and even weeps with those who are broken, no tragedy on earth will steal away His joy—nor, by extension, our joy if it is rooted in Him.
As you hold fast to your faith in Christ, through this season and the years to come, may you serve Him with gladness, awaiting with expectation the day when you hear, “Well done…enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)
Rejoice! And be glad!
These are my own meditations and not meant as a thorough treatment of this subject. If you want a much better biblical analysis of this topic (seriously, so much better), check out this article at Bible.org: The Joy of God. I found this article as I was getting ready to post my own and loved it!