It is a joyful time of year! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the gardens are growing, school is ending, and summer is beginning. Joy, joy, and more joy!
At the May meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery, we were examining a young woman who had just graduated from seminary and has been called to pastor a church. Our examination takes the form of asking questions of her statement of faith, so that the community can confirm her call. One of the lines caught my attention: “There were moments when Jesus experienced great joy and moments when he suffered strong feelings of loss.” We are all aware of the moments of his suffering, but I asked her to share one of those moments from the Bible where Jesus experienced great joy. She could not think of any, and neither could I. I invited us to keep thinking because the idea of a joyful Jesus was appealing. After I returned to my pew, I googled Jesus and joy. Two Bible verses came up:
At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit Jesus (Luke 10:21).
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete (John 15:11).
Besides that, though, we don’t read much about Jesus’ joy. We read a lot about his suffering, as evidenced by his trial, condemnation, crucifixion, and death. It made me wonder if our joy is found not in a joyful Jesus, but in a suffering Jesus. I wonder if the source of our joy is, paradoxically, found in the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus. That seems to me to be a more profound, abiding joy. What this means to me is that even when we are not feeling happy or joyful, we can know that we are saved and sustained, named and claimed, loved and cherished, by Jesus, who sacrificed his joy and even his life. And that can give us a deep and abiding sense of joy.
It makes me think of a joyful children’s song:
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay.
And the song continues with the assurance that even when we don’t feel joy or understand our suffering, we can still sing:
I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart to stay.
June is a joyful time of year! But, even when it isn’t for you, know that ultimately our joy comes not from life, but from knowing that Jesus stretched out his arms and suffered death on a cross, and was raised from the dead, to show just how wide, how broad, and how deep is God’s love.
Hope you find joy this summer. Where? Down in your heart to stay!