Joy Is Not Optional

Joy is essential to the Christian life. The Scriptures are clear: God’s people are both commanded to rejoice and characterized by rejoicing.

Our heavenly Father is not indifferent to our happiness. Joy is not a garnish on the dutiful entrée of the Christian life. Joy is not the icing on our cake, but an essential ingredient in a complex batter.

It’s not that there is only joy, but that in our most painful losses and sufferings, we discover how deep the reservoirs of Christian joy run. Only here, in difficulty and darkness, do we taste the essence of such joy — that it is not thin and frivolous and empty, but thick and substantive and full.

Joy Is Possible

To hear that joy is not optional lands on some ears with promise and hope. If joy is essential, then it must mean that joy is possible. In a world of sin and suffering, mess and misery, it is good news to hear that joy is possible.

For one, joy is commanded all over the Bible. It was commanded of God’s first-covenant people, Israel, perhaps especially in the Psalms. “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!” (Psalm 149:2). “Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad” (Psalm 14:7). “Rejoice in the Lord” (Psalm 97:12). “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2). “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). With literally hundreds more instances throughout the Old Testament.

Beyond just Israel, God commands all nations to rejoice in their Maker (“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,”Psalm 67:4), and even commands the natural world to join in the joy (“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,”Psalm 96:11).

In the New Testament, God himself, in full manhood, doesn’t change his tune once he’s become the “man of sorrows” in our fallen world (Isaiah 53:3), but commands our joy as much as anyone, and gives us even more reason to rejoice. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). “Leap for joy” (Luke 6:23). “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Yes, joy is possible, joy so real and rich that we turn to friends and neighbors and say, “Rejoice with me” (Luke 15:69).

Written by David Mathis

Full story at Desiring God

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