“1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make oura joy complete.” ~1 John 1
I recently read through 1 John with a friend, and something he brought up when we got to the above passage was that he wasn’t sure he knew what joy meant. What is joy? What in this passage is there to be joyful of? I thought about this, and what came to my mind was that the disciples knew Jesus as the Savior, and it was their joy to proclaim it. They wanted everyone to have a relationship with the Father and Son. And whoever has fellowship with God has fellowship with one another, unity of spirit and mind, and that would make their joy complete.
So what is joy? It usually thought of as an excessive happiness, an overwhelmingly good feeling. But that would mean, wouldn’t it, that when things go bad in our lives, we cannot be joyful, either in one another nor in God. Joy would be fleeting, so what would be the point in looking for its completion? And so often, when I read in the psalms, I see that the authors had such a horrible time with enemies or feeling like they were being ignored by God. Yet they prayed to Him anyway, asked for His salvation. Why should they bother if they had no hope or joy in Him at the moment? But as it says in Psalm 42, “11Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” It is a choice to believe what you know to be true, and to put your hope in God is to find joy in Him.
But what is complete joy, lived out to the full? Again, I look to the Psalms. Psalm 63 has been a favorite of mine ever since I read it. It begins with these words: “O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” That is what I think joy is. An earnest seeking, a thirsting, a longing for the object of your affection. It is desire, devotion, deep love and strong commitment. That doesn’t change with circumstances.
It isn’t easy, that’s for sure, to remain in hope and joy in the Lord. There are days I don’t feel like praying to God, don’t hunger for His word. There are days when I don’t feel like loving the people around me or I feel alone and ignored by the world and God. And I know how difficult it can be for people who have lost loved ones, who might lose loved ones soon, who don’t have that assurance of hope in God to care of them. But God isn’t changed by fears or feelings, He remains faithful. Choosing to trust God anyway bears the fruit of peace.
“4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4
Have a blessed week!