Joy and the Christian Life, Pt. 2 – Looking Up
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Philippians 4:4
Many years ago I was able to see my brother for about 2 hours as he has a stop-over in Tokyo on his way to Sweden. It was very exciting to meet him up there, he was the first of my family to visit Japan during my stay here. I caught a plane up from Okinawa and stayed the night I believe in the airport to meet him the next morning.
Once he was through the arrival gate I grabbed him and got on a train to a nearby town with a very large old temple. I bought him the a canned coffee from the Japanese vending machine, showed him the temple, took a bunch of pictures, and introduced him finally to the Japanese version of Macdonalds. Then he was off, and on his way to Sweden. It was a good 2 hours.
But afterwards instead of joy, I felt sadness. My flight back to Okinawa wasn’t until late the same night. I spent the whole day in Tokyo. And more and more the sadness grew as if a black hole was sucking me in. Finally I found myself not too far from Tokyo Tower sitting in a park with a bunch of people walking their dogs. I was at the bottom of myself.
It was then that the words of Philippians began to play back as the words of God to my soul, “rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.” I said “no.” Again it came “rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.” I said “no.” Again it came “rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.” I said “I can’t.” How could I? The pain of the last couple of years was surrounding me. The difficulties in ministry, the broken engagement, the dissapoint of where I was in life… I could not find any joy in myself. Finally a fourth time, “rejoice in the Lord.” This time I said “Ok. Lord I thank you for this day, I thank you that I could meet my brother, I thank you that you gave your Son to die for my sins, I thank you that I my sins are forgiven, that I have eternal life, that you are in control of my life, and that you are with me and leading me…” And what happened? Joy started to rise in my heart, until it filled me.
I learnt that day Christian joy doesn’t come from within. No, it comes from above. As the soul looks up to it’s redeemer. There will always be many things, many reasons, many pains which will weigh on your heart and even cause it to sink into despair. But Christian joy isn’t dependent on these things. It is actually born in them. It is at this time when the only thing we can do is look up. If we did not have these things we would not need Christian joy. We would be joyful all in ourselves. But it is exactly because of these things that we are able to know to joy of Lord.
Christian joy does not look within, nor around, but looks up. Will you look up today?