Pride and Joy

Congo Trip 2011 410

The Bible is full of joy and celebration. The Old Testament contains lots and lots of parties—just think of all the feasts the Lord wanted Israel to enjoy. If you have ever been to a Jewish celebration, you’ve experienced celebratory singing, dancing, and shouting. The New Testament shows Jesus performing his first miracle at a wedding party, and his partying didn’t stop there: Other times, he was questioned by the Jewish leaders about all his “eating and drinking with sinners.” Psalm 30:11 says that God can turn our “wailing into dancing.” Laughter is truly one of life’s best medicines for what ails us. The book of Proverbs contains several verses that relate to joy. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” and Proverbs 15:15 says, “The cheerful heart has a continual feast.” I love connecting two verses in Proverbs chapter fifteen in particular. Verse 13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful,” and verse 30 says, “A joyful look brings joy to the heart.” If we focus on the joy in our heart, it will show up on our face—and if people look at the joyful smile on our face, it will create joy in their hearts. Joy flows both ways; joy creates more joy. The description of heaven in Revelation chapter twenty-one talks about a place with no “mourning, crying, or pain.” There will be a lot of laughter and joy in heaven.

My nickname for my youngest daughter Sammy is PJ, which stands for “pride and joy.” Ever since she was a little girl, I asked her at bedtime, “What is your job in life?” And she answers, “To give people joy.” Sammy definitely grew into the meaning of her nickname and has brought joy into the lives of countless people.  A few years ago, Sammy bought me a book I enjoyed—Love Does, by Bob Goff. Knowing that I had been reading many serious books for my Ph.D. program, she thought I needed a little “whimsy” in my life. Indeed, whimsy is one of Bob Goff’s favorite words to describe joy.  The act of giving other people joy is the job of every Christian. Joy is contagious. If we are joyful people, our joy will produce more joy in others.

Last year I tried to do some things just for fun. I took my wife to see the latest X-Men movie. We went to Peoria to watch the biggest July 4th fireworks display in Illinois. I attended a minor-league baseball game and borrowed my friend’s red Corvette convertible to take my wife out for a drive and a picnic lunch. We all need to do things that make us laugh, for laughter is the music of the soul. We also must take time to play, for play is the secret of perpetual youth. I have found that interacting with children and youth can teach me how to play again. Children exhibit God’s creative gift of fantasy and imagination. Playing on the floor with my grandkids, pretending to be with the princess at the King’s ball or racing against Lightning McQueen in the Piston Cup, is joyful therapy for me. So is playful teasing in the cafeteria with college students who are in their twenties. Similarly, I have found joy in joking together with people in their seventies and eighties who attend my church.

Have you ever been around someone who seems to always enjoy himself or herself, no matter where they are? That is the kind of person I want to hang out with, and that is the kind of person I want to be. We are supposed to live the joyful life during our few days here on Earth as we anticipate the eternal, joy-filled party waiting for us in heaven. Life is too short to miss out on the party.

REFLECTIONS: Do you take yourself too seriously? Create a daily reminder that says, “Remember how to have fun!” What can you can carry in your pocket to make you laugh or not take yourself too seriously?  How can you use the creative imagination that God has given you to bring joy to yourself and others?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

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