242 times the Bible talks about joy. In 1 Thesallonians 5:16, we are commanded to 'be joyful always!' But is this realistic? This question is one of the things I was thinking about deeply at the InterVarsity camp that I went to last week in Michigan. Can you be joyful when your spouse wounds you with hurtful words? When you lose the big game? When you don't get the promotion? When your heart is broken by a boyfriend/girlfriend?
The Bible is clear that there is a time for the full range of emotions. Life is full of the good and the bad and the full human experience embraces the each emotion as it comes. But there can be a river of joy that underlies it all.
The speaker last week challenged us with a quote from George Meuller - a British follower of Jesus who ran orphanages, never asking for money but trusting for God to provide for daily needs. He said:
"My first order of the day - every day - it to make my soul happy in the Lord. Without the spirit of joy, my ministry is worthless." For Meuller, joy was a choice - of the magnitude that his day was not worth starting unless his soul was filled with joy.
He discovered that joy is not based on circumstances, but on foundations that you build your life on. You can have joy even when life is crummy - if it is built on a joy-giving foundation. It reminds me of a verse in 1 Peter 1 that many of us memorized earlier this year.
"8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
As one of my coworkers noted "God is you the throne, your eternity is secure, you are loved beyond imagination. It just doesn't matter that your golf swing stinks."
Joy transcends it all.