John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
The devil does his best to convince us that God is a meanie, but true to form, that’s a total lie. God wants us to have His joy! In the famous parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14 ff) the reward for the faithful servants was to “enter into the joy of your Lord.” (The NIV renders that as “share your master’s happiness,” but I think that weakens the impact.) Joy is God’s idea. C. S. Lewis titled his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. That was a pun, actually, because his wife’s name was Joy, but it was very appropriate, because he was both a confirmed atheist and a confirmed bachelor, and God corrected both of those conditions. His time on this earth with his wife was limited, because she died of a disease (prompting another of his insightful books), but he said he could come up with no better word than joy to describe the realization that he had a Creator who loved him. The famous Christmas song, Joy to the World, is entirely appropriate, because Jesus is the ultimate proof of God’s love for us, and appropriating that love is joy indeed. If we lack joy, that shows that we lack the trusting obedience that draws us into intimacy with our Lord.
I have had a few unforgettable experiences in my journey with my Lord, and one of them was on precisely this point. I was in a small prayer meeting with three good friends – an Irish-American priest, a German priest, and a Japanese Pentecostal pastor – that regularly included singing praise songs as well as prayer. That particular time, I was so aware of the Lord’s presence, with such intensity, that I literally told the Lord He would have to back off if He intended me to keep working here on earth, because my physical body couldn’t take another drop. Like C. S. Lewis, I have no better word for what I experienced than joy. That experience has given me an intense anticipation of heaven, because there I won’t have a physical body to inhibit my experience and appreciation of the joy the Lord has for me. That’s why I can’t see the death of believers as tragedies. Such deaths are rough on those left behind, but they are absolutely glorious for those who go through them! I mourned when my parents died, because I deeply enjoyed fellowship with them on this earth, but I have absolute confidence that they are experiencing inexpressible joy in the presence of our Lord, and one day I will join them. Like Peter (1 Peter 1:8) I can testify that we can taste that joy even here on earth, and Jesus says He wants us to have it.
Father, thank You for Your joy indeed. Help me be a carrier of that joy to many, so that they may repent of refusing it in the past and believe You for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!