“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” AW Tozer
I was recently listening to a podcast on Joy. I’ll put it in the link below. It was one of the most impactful podcasts I had heard in the past year. The basic premise is found in the quote above, that what you think about who God is, reflects how you live your life.
My ideas of God growing up and till recently have really been largely that God is angry and you must walk on eggshells around him lest you face judgment. Jesus was kind and good and loving, but God not so much. And in my defense, the Old Testament is full of stories of God getting angry with people who don’t do right and punishing them. There are lots of rules and wars and death. So you can see how I came to the conclusion that God is angry and looking to judge people. It has also been said that you often see God in light of your own relationship with your earthly father. For me, that was complicated, to say the least. But in this podcast Comer challenges the notion that God is angry or judgemental, but that he is full of joy. That is definitely not how I would have described him. These verses may help shed light on it.
Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”
Psalm 94:19 “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
I Chronicles 16:27 “Splendor and majesty are before him, strength and joy are in his place.”
God is joyful and wants us to be joyful as well. What is Joy?
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Karl Barth
“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” CS Lewis
“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God” Sam Storms
I have heard many sermons on happiness versus joy. Happiness is due to your circumstances whereas joy is from God and is despite circumstances. Comer challenges that there is a difference. He says that joy is something you create in yourself by intentionally focusing on the good things in your life. It’s a spiritual discipline to create joy. Practice gratitude, prayer, and meditation on the goodness of God and the blessings in your life and doing things in your life that bring you joy. I thought, based on my understanding of joy, that it was something that God bestowed upon the really good Christians usually in hardship. If I wasn’t joyful then I wasn’t a good Christian. I didn’t feel joyful for lots of moments in my life, especially over the past few years, so I must not be doing it right. But joy is something you practice. It’s a spiritual muscle you build up and it begins with how you see God.
If you see God as angry and judgemental then it affects how you view life. But if we see God as joyful and merciful and full of grace doesn’t that just hit you differently? It brings a joy to your own life that this Being who created the universe wants you to have a relationship with Him and wants you to be joyful. Seeing God in this way has changed how I view joy and how I view my life. I don’t have to walk around fearing God’s judgment and wrath, He has grace for my failings but I in turn want to please him, not out of fear or duty, but out of love. “it is the kindness of God that brings one to repentance”.
That’s not to say we are to overlook or dismiss our feelings of sadness or anger. Those are valid. They are meant to be felt. God gave me a chapter in the Bible to look at the other day. Psalm 109. I didn’t remember reading it before, but it’s a very interesting passage. It’s called an imprecatory psalm and it’s the strongest one in the Bible. Basically, David is very distressed and angry because the people he loved have treated him badly. They have betrayed him and said terrible untrue things about him and he cries out to God about it. But then he goes on to curse these people very strongly. It’s very controversial and some scholars have argued it shouldn’t be in the bible because of its strong language. In the end, David tells God that he will leave these hurts and offenses to God and he will not do anything to avenge himself. What’s more, this psalm was sung by the Jewish people in their worship services, can you imagine? Why would God put this into the Bible? Why would He show it to me? I think it’s because he wants to validate sadness and anger as normal human emotions. I felt seen and heard in my own pain. It also shows how we should not try to avenge our own mistreatment but should leave that to God, but we are allowed to express ourselves to him about these situations in our lives.
How do you see God? What is He like to you? How does that affect your life? What can you do to create joy in your life?