“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism is clear on this point. This is what precisely makes us Evangelical in our theology and practice. To live a life that finds joy in glorifying God supremely.
At the center of our dogma, then, lies the concept of Christian joy. There is simply no way around it. Our anthem is, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Ps. 103:1). Joy is a heavy anchor that, given the stakes, must stay put. This is why we often associate Christian joy with words like “trust,” “faith,” “hope,” and “satisfaction.” It is foundational to a healthy Christian life.
But joy is not free from attack. From the moment Adam and Eve walked in the garden, Satan has labored to steal our joy. Turn back to Genesis 3 for a moment. The serpent comes to Eve and asks a simple, yet deceptive question. He asks her, in essence, “Did God actually say what you think He did?” Eve will not be swayed at first, however:
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” (Genesis 3:2)
Eve’s response in verse 2 is one rooted in joy. Now, I’m not making an observation based on my knowledge of the Hebrew in this verse. But in the words “We may,” I do not hear a spirit of dissatisfaction, but a heart that joyfully content with the law of God and her responsibility under it. I hear in “We may” a feeling that’s closer to “We have the privilege of!” After all, Eve had every reason to be joyful. The Fall had not yet occurred. Life was free from trouble, pain, and therefore one of joy. Of course, we know what happens in a matter of moments. Joy is taken to task by the self-sovereignty of man, and the Fall begins to distort our affections, our world, and our human race. Adam and Eve discarded their joys. Joy, unfortunately, can be lost.
Over the next several weeks, I will be writing about the various “foes of joy” that we often face. What do I mean by this? I mean to ask one simple question: What robs joy of its joyfulness? In other words, what are the various sinful, and even non-sinful, actions and feelings and thoughts that try to persuade us away from gospel-centered joy? And how do we cultivate a sense of joy in our hearts when it comes to the gospel and its outworkings in our life?
Each week we will take these head on. But for now, I only hope to show you the importance of such a topic of discussion. “Joy is the serious business of heaven,” as C.S. Lewis reminds us. We must treat it with its due respect. In preparation for the weeks to come, here are some verses that we can chew on this week. As you meditate on these verses, take some time to consider just how important joy is to our Christian life, and how debilitating the absence of joy can be to it. Reflect on these verses during the week. What can we learn from them about joy?
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:22)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live. (Ecclesiastes 3:12)
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. (James 1:2)
What robs joy of its joyfulness?
What is robbing your joy in your own life?
How do you cultivate joy?
Next week, we will talk about the first foe to joy. And it’s probably not at all what you think it is.