Joy, fleeting and chosen

Once in a great while something wonderful happens. A feeling of pure, soul-lifting joy suddenly overtakes me, but only for a moment or two. And then it’s gone. Does this ever happen to you?

It’s hard to describe the sensation other than to say that it’s a really good feeling, but so fleeting that I barely have time to assess it. I guess I could call it an ephemeral experience of euphoria.

I know others have also experienced this sudden and very brief burst of joy.….maybe everyone has. C.S. Lewis wrote about it in his book Surprised by Joy, describing it as, “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” The satisfaction of any of our other desires cannot compare to the unsatisfaction of this one. Where this elusive desire comes from, I don’t know. But I suspect it’s given us directly from God to give us a glimpse..…a hint..…of what Heaven will be like.

This joy Lewis wrote of (with a capital “J”) and that all too infrequently overtakes me cannot be summoned or successfully sought. It just comes…and quickly goes. But there is a joy (lower case) that, I believe, is in our power to lay hold of and hang on to for more than a fleeting moment. At least for the Christian.

Christians are sometimes portrayed as stereotypically sullen…disagreeable and dour in our judgmentalism. That’s certainly true of some, but I personally don’t know any like that so I’m confident it’s not true of most of us. But neither is it true that we exude contented joy, as a rule. At least I don’t. Yet there’s an expectation I feel that I should.

Christians of all people are most blessed because through Jesus Christ we have come into a saving relationship with the great God of the universe, we have his Holy Spirit within us, our eternal future in blissful coexistence with him forever is secured, he loves and cares for us more than any earthly person can, we have forgiveness of our sins, and much more. All of these are reasons to rejoice, and if we believe and meditate on these truths we can experience “lower case” joy, to some degree. 

That’s the expectation, anyway. But I have some difficulty meeting that expectation, even though I have so much to be grateful for in my personal life (and I am) in addition to what I have as a believer in Christ. And I think it’s because I’m so caught up with and concerned about all the sorrow and suffering others who are not so blessed are experiencing. Not to mention all the evil being perpetrated and promoted around the globe, and the lies being told and believed, and the danger that presents to all of us. All of that tends to weigh more heavily on the scale that is my temperament. 

But there have always been evil, sorrow, and suffering in the world, yet God repeatedly tells his people to, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” We are called to joy. It must be good and right to be cheerful, having an attitude of gladness, even though others are hurting and sin is rampant. We needn’t feel guilty for that, as I sometimes do.

Perhaps the key is a firm trust in God founded on a proper knowledge of him, and a recognition that I am not able to right all the wrongs in the world, nor is it my responsibility. I need to remind myself regularly that he is active in the world he has made, that he has a plan he will accomplish, and that, like any good father, he wants his children to enjoy the life and the gifts he has given them.

And then choose to delight my Father by delighting myself in what he has given me.

Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!”

Psalm 35:27