“…Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Israel returns from captivity and re-discovers the Law of Moses. As they hear the Law of God read to them, they are greatly grieved. We read the above from the profit Nehemiah.
There is an aspect of the Christian faith that is Joy! Not “happiness,” that may well depend on circumstance and outside-of-self influences, but a sense of joy that is internal and not dependent on environment. Paul learned aspects of this kind of joy when he writes about being content in all things:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
“The Joy of the Lord” is something that I learned and experienced during my time in American-Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. It is not explained by emotionalism or “enthusiasm.” It is not “euphoria;” it isn’t silliness; it is not self-deception or mania; it isn’t the temporary fix of shopping-sprees or too much drink or drug; it isn’t those common kind of things.
It comes in part from learning to hear the “still small voice of God” and from listening to the wisdom of God’s moving among the community. It is part of learning to sense the directing of the Comforter in life and receiving the grace and healing of God through the sacraments. It is putting aside our pride and rebelliousness against anything other than what we want to
thing think is so. It is stepping out of our cultural proclivities of greed, selfishness, hyper-individualism, and idolatry. It is seeking to “love God with all our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our souls.” That is the first and greatest of the Commandments of All Mighty God – the first part of the summation of the Law of Moses. This joy comes from looking outside of and beyond ourselves and our own narrow interests – the second Great Commandment is like the first, “Love you neighbor as yourself.” It comes, in part, from humility, with a realistic estimation of ourselves and our condition. It comes by faith, but not blind faith.
It is a joy that those who have experienced it understand. It is very, very difficult to try to explain it to others, but there you go. There is always the possibility that it is all a figment of imaginations and nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain, but I doubt it. The associate rector of the parish through which I entered The Episcopal Church (Jim Beebe, St. Paul’s Akron, OH) said often that those who have had a genuine experience with God have a very difficult time describing it. The words are simply not there – words fail us.
I know to some people this will sound like I am lifting up certain people over others – those who have “had the experience” are better than all the rest of you who haven’t! This is not popular within a culture that demands that we cannot assert much of anything that makes some people feel deprived or less than, despite from where those feelings come. (The irony is that these feelings of affront, of insecurity, of unabated self-interest, will greatly hinder the ability of a person to actually experience this joy!) I’m not at all trying to build up a “better than thou” attitude, but the reality is that some have and some have not had such encounters of the Divine (there are always experiences that some have and some do not have). It changes not a bit the “joy of the Lord” experienced by people if we insist on not talking about such things because some people might feel excluded or lesser – what I desire is that all people have such experiences.
So, anyway, I came across this video. It reminds me of the “joy of the Lord” exemplified by my past experiences with the people I knew and with whom I met God. The beginning is some man explaining the video in an African language I do not understand, the rest is just good.