“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” is a hymn I used to sing a lot growing up in church. But I didn’t always get the feeling God was joyful—not from most of the Christians around me anyway. There were a few, however, that did seem filled with joy. These were the exceptions, and they stand out in my memory.
I had a teacher at our Christian school who had seven or eight children and never enough money, but he was always happy. One day he told us a story about answered prayer. He said a student had asked him to borrow a dime—yes, I believe it was a dime though now that seems impossible—and he loaned the student the coin. But he needed those few cents to buy a loaf of day-old bread for his large family, so he prayed the borrower would remember to pay him back. The boy remembered, and God had provided the bread for his family.
I’m not sure why he felt obligated to loan the money when he probably needed it much more than the student did, but I suspect he took Jesus’ words seriously. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Give to the one who asks of you” (Matt. 5:42). This verse haunts me to this day whenever I drive past a person on the street with a sign asking for money.
Anyway, he was joyful, though he had so little money and so many children. Some of the other teachers at the Christian school were joyful too, and they were a blessing and an inspiration to me. They made it easier to believe in God as a God of joy.
Grief and Loss
Somewhere along the way, though, life became so serious and losses broke my heart. Then guilt made its way into the picture, and I wasn’t so sure joy was something I was entitled to, and I wasn’t sure God was into joy as much as He was into sacrifice.
In the passing of time however, joy kept circling back around. Losses came and brought grief, but then a new child and later a new grandchild would be born, or the cancer went away, and joy and thankfulness seemed the thing to count on and grief and guilt the things to let go of, as soon as possible. God designed life to be in cycles, and He gave us daily joys and gifts such as love and creativity. These gifts, along with the daily beauties found in nature, help heal the wounds that guilt and losses inflict.
Joy in the Process
I like to think of God as having joy in the process of creation—maybe because I find so much joy in the creative process. In the above artwork, I am thinking of Genesis 1. The Spirit is hovering over the waters anticipating creation. I tried to show a joyful Deity anticipating the coming of the first light.
I love how joy begins before the moment arrives and can be relived in memory afterwards. One of the best things about vacations is the anticipation of the joy that is to come. We plan and hope for fun times ahead, and the enjoyment begins before we pack the first bag. Then after, we look at the photos, remember the adventures and the joy continues. God designed it so.
A Joyful God
God gives us joy daily in the rising and the setting of the sun, the beauty of nature, the smiling of a child and the comfort of our rest at the end of the day. I feel that joy is stronger than grief, for we can find joy constantly if we open our eyes to the beauty of nature and humanity all around us. I hope it feels that way for you as well. As a believer, I hope to reflect a joyful God.
What do you think? Is God joyful? Do many believers reflect the joy of the Lord? I’d love to hear your views in the comments!
I’m an artist who loves to write. If you’d like to get to know me better, please follow me on social media.
My Blog: susanebrooks.com
Instagram @sebrooks81 (Mostly Art)