Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Must Christians Always Experience Joy?

I came across a great book, "Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have To Do" (love the title) by Phillip Cary. I ordered the book after reading this review, in hopes it would prove useful in counseling and in helping women to think soberly about such things as "how to know God's will." I'm sure it will prove useful in those ways, but thankfully, it's already proven very helpful to me, particularly the chapter entitled "Why You Don't Always Have to Experience Joy."

I needed to read these words, and be reminded of this truth, and see a few things in a new way. The kind of joy we like to tell each other we "ought" to feel has been a sort of rare commodity for me these days. More of "the silly grin" has definitely been wiped off my face. :)← (Yet look, there it is again, trying to make its appearance.) (Oh stop it!) You see what I mean. We often think that the joy the Bible calls us to is a perpetual bubbly (or wisecracking or giddy) fa├žade. Yet this can be a disheartening way to think. The real truth of the matter is much better, and much more satisfying.

Here are a few quotes from this chapter of the book so you can get a taste of it yourself. These words are good news to the suffering, the depressed and the afflicted, because their context is the gospel of Jesus. The good news, our hope, resides in what Christ has done on our behalf, not in what we can manage to drum up on our own. By all means read the review I linked to above, and order a copy here. You won't go wrong with this book.

"The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion. The idea itself is what's cruel: it turns people who wish to comfort the afflicted into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get the joy back, but in the process they insist their friends accept the underlying idea that it's not normal for the Christian life to include deep suffering of heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life--as if there's something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear" (p. 139).

"The Bible makes time for this dark night, because it teaches that hope is a kind of waiting (see, for example, Psalm 25:3, 5, 21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:7; Psalm 40:1; Psalm 130:6). Often it's a very active kind of waiting, full of labors like rebuilding a city in a land full of enemies (see Nehemiah 4:1-23). But it may also be a passive kind of waiting that includes suffering, a longing that arises in the midst of great affliction, where the only activity available to you is prayer, complaining to God. In the Bible, complaining to the only one who can rescue you is an act of hope. This is why complaint is one of the most important forms or genres of prayer, as in the many Psalms that cry out, "How long, O Lord?"... To pray these psalms of complaint is to realize that waiting in hope does not mean being content with suffering, as if there were something good about being in pain. But neither does it mean there's something wrong with people who suffer" (p. 141).

"Although we cannot understand all the glory that is to come, we do know [our story] is the kind of story where the happy ending makes the whole story good. We can see that already in the day we call Good Friday. We call it good because of what is revealed in the light of Easter Sunday, when the glorious resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ changed everything in human history forever, including the meaning of the events on Good Friday. Not only the past, but also the future is different, as every cross we bear is different because of the cross of Christ. Our own death is different because of his resurrection from the dead. The whole universe is different because this man, who is God in the flesh, sits now at the right hand of God the Father at the center of the angels' unbroken hymns of praise. Everything in the world is already different, hiding a glory that is to be revealed when the kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven" (p.155).


Laurie M. said...

This looks very good. I'll have to check it out.

Jeri Tanner said...

It's a really good book, Laurie. For my own benefit I'd like to blog through each chapter.

jan spooner said...

I ordered the book last night. I'm looking forward to reading it and hearing more of your thoughts on it.

Jeri Tanner said...

I've been reading and re-reading it.