Choose joy

Farmville Enterprise April 18, 2018

It struck me in January that I wanted to have a word for the year: joy. In December we read the proclamation of the angel in Bethlehem, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11) One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a person found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

To put it mildly, it is often easy to lose our joy in the midst of the inevitable negative aspects of life. We or others get sick, lose jobs, make poor decisions, choose selfish gain, ignore the needs of neighbors or give in to unhealthy desires. Presented with possible joy-killers we can turn to the truth in Scripture that God loves us and walks closely with us through our difficult and good times. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, experienced pain and sorrow and thus understands our struggles. Like a good shepherd, God has compassion on us, the sheep. Choosing joy is intentionally maintaining the mindset that God is with us, for us and has a good plan for our lives.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

The J.B. Phillips translation puts Romans 15:13 this way: “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.”

Michael Card, a favorite and theologically thoughtful songwriter since the early 80’s wrote a song called “Joy in the Journey.” “There is a joy in the journey. There’s a light we can love on the way. There is a wonder and wildness to life, and freedom for those who obey.”  The Westminster Catechism teaches that “man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

In 1907 Henry van Dyke penned a beautiful poem with the intention of setting it to Beethoven’s melody “Ode to Joy.” The first and third stanzas are just a part of this lovely and beloved hymn of praise.

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee
God of glory Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee
Op’ning to the Sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
fill us with the light of day

Thou art giving and forgiving
ever blessing, ever blest
well-spring of the joy of living
ocean-depth of happy rest
Thou the Father, Christ our Brother—
all who live in love are Thine
Teach us how to love each other
lift us to the Joy Divine”

Today, let us choose joy.

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