In the midst of our pursuit of God, we can sometimes focus so much on the seriousness of discipleship that we miss out on the joy of our life with God. For me personally, there are times when I emphasize the challenges or trials on this earth to the point that I ignore or unwittingly downplay the gracious gift of our joyful life with God.
Of course, it is true that we are citizens of a heavenly home, who are, in a sense, just passing through this land of earth for a limited time. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear as he rehearses the faith-filled pursuers of God in the Bible. We read:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)
Our sense of displacement is an unavoidable aspect of our life on earth. As the old song says: “I am a pilgrim and a stranger traveling through this wearisome land.”
Yet it is also true that God is the creator of joy, who longs to bring His joy into our lives. This came to home to me recently as I read Paul’s words to the church in Philippi:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
Paul was no stranger to suffering. He wrote this very letter to the Philippians under the pressure of imprisonment. Still, that letter is uniquely known as “the epistle of joy” because of the resounding theme of joy in the midst of his faith in Christ. He writes earlier in Philippians:
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. (Philippians 3:10)
We know that Paul suffered extreme physical and emotional hardships throughout his itinerant ministry of church planting (2 Corinthians 11:16-29). Even in his sufferings, however, Paul knew the joy of Jesus.
We should also consider David’s thankful assurance before God in Psalm 16:
You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
It was C. S. Lewis who once said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” Part of God’s aim is to overpower us with the joy of life in His presence. He is a God of joy for those who live in Him. Obviously, the pilgrim nature of our lives means that there are ups and downs in our days, both within us and exterior to us. In all of that, however, God is inviting us into the journey of joy with Him. Are we looking for His invitation?