“What gives you the most joy? I think some of us feel guilty even saying those words out loud. As if perhaps it’s a selfish thing to think, ‘what gives me joy?’ As if perhaps joy is acceptable for rare moments on the weekends or glimpses of sunsets on vacation, but has no real purpose in the real world.” (Acuff, Start, 108)
It wasn’t always this way. God exists as three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, called the Godhead. Within the Godhead, they existed in perfect community, love, and joy! Joy is at the very heart of God, Himself. It was an out flowing of community, love, and joy from the Trinity that man was created. Joy is central to God’s purpose for mankind, just as it was central to his creation. So why then is Acuff spot-on in his analysis of human joy? Why does joy scare us? shame us? guilt us?
Our culture twists and distorts so many things. Intimacy trafficked for sex. Influence exchanged for celebrity. Compassion confused as pity. Joy is often misappropriated in this culture as happiness. Sadly, most, if given the option, would choose happiness over joy. It was never meant to be this way. In Genesis 1-2, God created this world that was good. When humanity was added in and stirred well it was very good. God created man in His image for paradise and partnership, to rule and reign, to serve and multiply. When the sin of Genesis 3 happens (which Paul reminds us that we had a share in) everything about the Genesis 2 world was turned upside down. Since joy was central to God’s plan for humanity, everything that about it became tainted as well.
You have heard the lies as I have: “God only uses miserable, suffering people for great things!”; “Desiring joy is selfish”; “Happiness is easier to find”; “Joy is something you don’t deserve”. These are the lies that come from our sin nature…the nature we weren’t created to have. I believe Acuff is correct because we buy into the lies the world tries to sell us. I believe he is right because we often forget our true identity. We were created in the image of a joyful God, whose plan for us was joy.
Joy is something that must be manufactured, practiced, learned. But we cannot do these things if we are convinced that we are undeserving of it, shamed for desiring it, or guilted because we have it. Forget the lies, the shame, and the embarrassment that the world tries to sell you, and be the joyful creation you were always meant to be!