Joy Joy Joy

Well, I’ve been continuing my study on joy. I’m not posting stuff that I see as redundant, but let me assure you that there are some very clear themes. Joy has been clearly connected to obedience, worship, sacrifice, and godly authority time and again through the historical books of the Old Testament. Some of the striking things I’ve seen are in 2 Chronicles 20:19, where the Israelites praised the Lord with a loud voice BEFORE His promise was fulfilled. The word joy doesn’t appear until later, in verse 27, after God delivered the nation from the massive army of Ammonites and Meunites, but the actions of joy are very evident well before God did anything because they trusted that He would deliver.

And then, yesterday, I came across a rather surprising statement in Job 6:10. According to the NASB, Job declares, “But it is still my consolation, And I rejoice in unsparing pain, That I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” By this point in time, Job had lost everything. His fortune, his family, and even his health had been ripped from him by Satan, and even his wife and friends had turned against him. The point would have been effective had he been using hyperbole, the art of exaggerating to convey a point, but he really wasn’t. Job knew unsparing pain. And yet he rejoiced because he had managed somehow to remain faithful through it all so far. So often, Satan draws our attention to how bad we’ve got it. And if we fail in even the slightest manner – or often, even if we’re just tempted in even the slightest way – he rubs that in our face incessantly, dragging us down. But like Job, we should find joy in our own faithfulness, especially in tough times. We should learn from the failures and resolve to do and be better, but then rejoice at the success.

But in the last several weeks since I posted, I really think that the passage that struck me the most was Ezra 3:12-13. Here, as Ezra and the Israelites returned from exile finished laying the foundation for the new temple, we read of a great celebration. In verse 11, the party is described like this: “They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord…. And all the people shouted with a great shout and they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” But then verse 12 begins with the word “Yet” and tells of the elder priests and leaders who realized that this second temple would have but a fraction of the size and grandeur of the original. We’re told that these men “wept with a loud voice… while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people.” And it occurred to me that, quite often, actually, what is joyful to me can be mournful for someone else. More often than not, joy and sorrow go hand-in-hand.

I don’t know why that last realization struck me so, but I can say that I’m beginning to understand what it’s all about. In leadership circles, we hear all the time that the first reaction to proposed change is almost universally “No.” And yet change is imperative. For some, change represents progress. For others, it is abandonment. The former is a cause for joy, the latter for mourning.

So I guess the challenge for me has been to recognize that, even as I celebrate a change that I’ve felt was necessary for some time, I should be sensitive to others who have the other perspective. And I should never take for granted what I find so joyful.

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