The necessity of joy

By Dave Henning / November 2, 2012

“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep. . . . Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”- Nehemiah 8:9-10

If you were asked to list the predominant emotions you’ve been feeling following your ministry downsizing or position loss, joy certainly would not top your list.  Yet author John Ortberg (The Life You’ve Always Wanted) asserts that, with God’s help, it’s possible to become a joyful person.  Joyfulness is a learned skill- and we must take responsibility for our joy.  That’s why we need to practice the discipline of celebration.

Pastor Ortberg goes on to distinguish between true celebration and its inverse, hedonism.  Hedonism is characterized by:

1.  an ever-increasing demand for personal gratification

2.  the law of diminishing returns- what gave joy yesterday no longer does today

3.  diminished capacity for joy

True celebration is characterized by:

1.  seeing and feeling goodness in God’s simplest gifts

2.  delight in something today that had gone completely unnoticed yesterday

3.  increase capacity for joy

Pastor Ortberg then adds one final and critical distinction: “One test of authentic joy is its compatibility with pain.  Joy in this world is always joy ‘in spite of something’.  Joy is, as Karl Barth put it, a ‘defiant nevertheless’ set at a full stop against bitterness and resentment.”


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Dave Henning

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