In 1977, William Griffin of the Macmillan Publishing Co. compiled a book containing 127 readings from the works of C.S. Lewis. The title of the book is “The Joyful Christian,” and it encapsulates Lewis’s view of the Christian life. It also is the viewpoint I believe my wife had in her life as a Christian, and of life in general.
Lewis gives three examples of how he viewed joy: 1) through the “memory of a memory,” where a memory creates a joyful desire that is beyond the present world; 2) through an entertaining book such as those written for children by Beatrix Potter, taking him joyfully to life beyond the ordinary; and 3) through poetry, always a joy to him. Lewis says, “The reader who finds these three episodes of no interest need read this book [Surprised by Joy, his autobiography] no further, for in a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else.”
I thought about my own life, and what has brought me the most joy. Certainly, becoming a Christian with my sins forgiven was a major one. However, I think the most joyful experience I have had in life was being married. This is, I suppose, largely because I married someone who was joyful. Her life as a Christian was to express love and concern for other people and she did it in a variety of ways, and she loved to have pleasure. She helped to relax my introverted nature and taught me to have fun and fellowship in a non-contradictory way. “A Christian, especially a missionary wife,” she told me “should not wear black.” Joice wore brightly colored clothes, most often accompanied by smiles and laughter. Of course, there are aspects of the Christian life that are very serious, but surely, as she demonstrated, God wanted her to be happy.
However, there were many times when we were not “happy” in the sense of enjoying what was happening to us: sickness, surgeries, recoveries, accusations, deaths, and diseases. But we wanted to understand God’s purposes and to live like people whom God loved and had under his care (his wings). So, we tried to find some joy in the events.
My children and, much later, my grandchildren (now, even great-grandchildren) have also made me happy. Any parent knows that as their children mature, they also question the wisdom of their parents. We had only two children, and each had times of rebellion, not serious like running away or getting on drugs, but questions about our sanctions and fairness. Joice and I thought the same about our parents for, as one of our pastors used to say, “what goes around comes around.” Not very profound, but quite observant.
When our children married wonderful mates, as ours did, and presented us with grandchildren, then our happiness exceeded that of the ordinary. Suddenly, we see ourselves in our grandchildren, and we are committed to praying for them for the rest of our lives. There is a profound joy in praying for your grandchildren. I echo 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Joice and I also found enjoyment in our work: we lived in Kewa villages in Papua New Guinea and studied their culture and languages. Having God’s love and wisdom expressed in another language is rewarding, but the joys of seeing people understand God’s word as if he were talking to them in person, are occasions of immense joy.
We have always found fun with our friends, and we have had lots of them. Joice always needed a close friend, and she made many here on earth. I believe she is doing the same in heaven.
What gives me more rapture than I can humanly express is the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. To think that God gave me this gift of himself to teach, convict, and guide me is joy beyond comprehension. I can’t readily explain it.
There are 242 verses in the NIV Bible that have “joy” in them (57 in Psalms alone), and Galatians 5:22 places it right in the middle of the fruits of the Spirit. Most translations keep the word “joy,” but The Message ventures a bit further and expresses it as “exuberance about life.” I like that translation very much because it seems to demonstrate my wife’s outlook.
Joy is demonstrated not simply with smiles and laughter, but also with the innermost way we look at life and talk about it.
Christians love the book of Revelation because it tells them of heaven. There is a lot of praise and happiness there, but my translations do not mention joy. The last verse in the Bible to mention joy is Jude 1.24, and it is part of a doxology: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
There will be no shame when we are presented before God, only “great joy.” Think about it: we are now on a path that will lead to meet Jesus with JOY, not trepidation.