A few days ago, Jon Acuff posted of picture of himself in Austria, skiing these gorgeous slopes. Under the photo, he shared this: “I didn’t ski for 11 years. I grew up going in Massachusetts but then it was like I forgot something that gives me joy. Part of it was our stage of life, we had young kids and no money, but part of it was something else. A counselor told me I was a workaholic and had a hard time accepting joy.” Although I’m not a skier and don’t enjoy winter vacations, I could totally relate to his struggle with practicality and the need to accept joy. Regularly, I confess to others, “I think I’ve lost my ability to have fun.” Even celebratory times are tempered by relational strains, financial burdens, or the other piled-up stresses just waiting for me to return to “reality”. I’m too practical and responsible for my own good. But deeper than that burden lies the belief that I don’t deserve to be happy. When I see divorce, cancer, and homelessness surround me, I think, “How can I be happy if they aren’t?
Sadly, I’ve allowed guilt to rob my joy.
So many friends and family members are struggling with loss, broken marriages, rebellious kids, depleted finances, and loneliness. How can I sit here and be happy when all the world is crumbling around me? Somehow I think that carrying one another’s burdens involves restraining myself from enjoying my own life until everyone else’s is in order. Like that day would ever come. Like everyone–myself included–will one day have ideal circumstances and then we can all break free and party together? I don’t laugh or dance in the face of their pain, but I can acknowledge and rejoice in what God has gifted me….regardless of what circumstances I or someone else might be facing.
If I buy into the lie that I can’t feel content or glad until others can be with me, then I’ve missed out on a biblical mandate that not only enriches my life but those around me as well. After all, who wants to follow a Jesus that requires a mournful expression and a lack of cheerful zeal? I most reflect His nature when I exhibit joy. Remember the command to “be joyful always” and don’t allow the enemy to shame you into despair (I Thess. 5:16, Is. 52:9, Joel 2:21, Ps. 149:5, Ps. 66:1, Ps. 5:11, Matt. 5:12, Phil. 4:4, Rev. 19:7). My spirit is a reflection of the Spirit within me, so shine, beautiful face, and reflect the glorious work He has done within you. Give thanks, celebrate, and yes, allow yourself to have fun.
Psalm 33:1 -“Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.”
“…Jesus gives us that same unshakable joy: ‘Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (even yourself John 16:22, RSV). No one can take us hostage by sin and steal our joy, demanding a ransom of Christian misery. No one can blackmail the saints of God with bad behavior and threaten to nullify our love if we will not pay up with the sacrifice of our joy. If our joy is lost, Christ is belittled, and what then has love to offer the beloved sinner?
“May God give us the solid joy of Christ, even as we mourn over those who will not share it but cannot steal it” (John Piper, Taste and See, 40).
I’ve allowed pride to rob my joy.
When I get into my overly-responsible, worried mode, I am not trusting God to be God. I think life’s up to me to work hard enough, pray hard enough, save enough, try enough, think enough, etc. When I do that, joy remains elusive. My pride has pushed joy out the door, because I’m too serious about my standing on the throne to rest in Him. I ask questions like, “What if it’s not enough? What will people think? How will go on if I’m seen as irresponsible or lazy? What if people misunderstand?” And the list goes on. And the list steals.
A light heart doesn’t come through apathy, ignorance, or co-dependence, but from understanding our rightful place under the Glorious Headship and Omnipotence of God.
“Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people;” Is. 52:9
“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Ps. 127:2
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Is. 26:3
“By being happy in Christ, we lay claim to the fact that God is bigger than the Fall and affirm that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will reverse the Curse and reign over a new universe. […] The narrower our view of God’s presence in this world–and in our daily lives–the less happiness we’ll experience” (Randy Alcorn, Happiness 21).