More about joy

Whenever I think about joy, I generally think about the joy that I should have in my life. And though I am embarrassed to admit it, usually, those thoughts take the form of “If I only had this, then I would be really joyful.” Today, though, I stumbled across Deuteronomy 30:9 where, after outlining all the stuff that God would do to Israel if they failed to obey, Moses offered them a glimmer of hope. If, after they realized their disobedience, the people of God returned wholeheartedly to the Lord, I am told that “Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers” (NASB). I find this significant for a couple of reasons.

First, it serves as a potent reminder that I’m not the only one that longs for joy. God longs for it as well. And while I’m constantly expecting Him to fill me with joy, He is wholly dependent on me and my commitment to obedience for joy. That is indeed a strange reality, considering that God is omnipotent. And yet, here it is. God will rejoice over me if I obey. The inverse, of course, is that God will be devastated if I don’t. I imagine the situation to be like me with my kids. When they listen and play nice, there is no greater pleasure than watching them. And when they don’t listen or play nice, well, it’s infuriating. If I want joy from God, it seems only natural that I should want to bring joy to God.

Second, the fact that God can take joy – and pain – in my decisions is a powerful proof that He is indeed a Person. That realization is perhaps even more significant than the first. You see, so often, I have a tendency to think of God as something of a genie or – probably even more accurately – a magic wishing machine. As such, I have no qualms about asking of Him the unreasonable, the outrageous, and even the outright inappropriate. He shouldn’t be concerned with my decisions. He shouldn’t worry about the stuff that hurts – or helps – only me. Because it’s His purpose to grant my every whim, right? Except that couldn’t be further from the truth. God is a Person, and He has the same types of feelings we do. After all, He created us after a pattern: His image. So if God is a Person, He has thoughts, ideas, desires, and feelings that we should take interest in. After all, you don’t like it when people treat you like an ATM, do you?

The third thing that strikes me about this revelation of God rejoicing in me is that I actually have the ability to bring a smile to His face. For some people, bringing a smile to others’ face is their absolute passion, but I honestly don’t know anyone who would say that they don’t enjoy making someone else feel good. To think that we can make the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe feel good is absolutely astounding. And all we have to do is obey wholeheartedly.

And lastly, it occurs to me that, when God is rejoicing in me, the results are not coincidentally very much things that I like. Notice how the verse starts: if we turn back and obey, God will “prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body… and your cattle and in the produce of your ground.” Is it just me, or does that sound a lot like the stuff that I think I need to have joy? Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be rich or famous, but consider how The Message renders this: “God, your God, will outdo himself in making things go well for you: you’ll have babies, get calves, grow crops, and enjoy an all-around good life.” In short, if I obey, I’ll be effective, and God will take care to provide for my needs. Strange as it may be, that sounds an awful like like grounds for me to have joy, too.

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