Monday, July 20, 2015

Joy

“….and no one can rob you of that joy.”  John 16:22b

“Everyone looks unhappy here,” Mojgan bemoaned, phoning me from the other side of the world. “If you are unhappy you will have lots of friends but if you are happy no one wants to be around you.” Mojgan was struggling settling back in her homeland after enjoying years of freedom and happiness in the West. She is a happy natured woman but hadn’t found anyone to share her joy with. It seems the religious leaders there have a moratorium on joy. Playing happy music is forbidden and occasionally punishable. Even romance stories are more “enjoyed” if they are sad. Religion is expressed in sad mournful interpretations. Suffering and sacrifice are key values. It’s not that her people can’t be happy but rather it is more cultural to suppress or deny joy than to express it. But, given permission to express joy, her people can actually be full of life. When they are set free to express worship to Jesus Christ there is a beautiful passion of joy which resonates from them. Mojgan’s people have got to be some of the most beautiful people in the world but a terrible lie has been fed them that God has something against being happy.  A “thief” has come and killed joy in Mojgan’s country. The basic human right to be allowed to be happy has been stolen away from them.

I tried to explain to Mojgan that God created us to be joyful. He wants us to experience that mysterious fountain of life. I am not able to understand the particular interpretation that God would want us to live without joy. Christians take delight in knowing that God is full of joy and wants to give us joy and to live life to the fullest. We know that because Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10).

Joyful Christians are like magnets to everyone, but especially to Muslims. You may think that you don’t have all the objections and arguments to Islam down pat, don’t know enough Bible theology, etc., but a spirit of joy emanating from you will be pretty convincing and attractive. I recall the time a Muslim woman came to church with me and asked, “Joy, why are those people so happy who are singing?” It seemed very odd but also attractive. “They love God and He makes them happy,” I replied. She seemed puzzled by that response.

One of my favorite choruses to sing to young Muslim children is “I Have the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.” They love it and often sing along with me once they catch on to the words. Unashamedly I will let the joy of the Lord flow out from me like a sparkling river. I don’t want anyone to rob me of joy.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for giving me joy. It is a foretaste of heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.