“I’ve heard that there are two kinds of Christians in the world,” the young woman said perched on the couch of a home I visited lately. “People either see God as mad or sad.” On a normal day, that would have sounded fine to me. Either he is mad at our sin and wants to blast the world into oblivion, or he is sad over our sin and hopes to rescue us. Of those two, I’d choose the latter.
But the way God works these things out, I’d had breakfast earlier in the day with a group of men and one of them said that the truth that began his exploration of a greater journey was when he’d heard someone say that God is the most joyful presence in the universe.
So when I heard he was either sad or mad, I was already alert to a third alternative. Mad or sad still focuses on us and our sin. Isn’t it interesting how we are taught in religion to view God through our sin, not to view God beyond our sin? Instead of celebrating the essential nature of God at work in a broken world to rescue us to himself, we’re left to sulk in the brokenness and failures of this temporal age.
Jesus told his disciples the night before he died that he was telling them all these things so that his joy to be in them and for their joy to be full. This is his passion, to see us find the same joy in the Father that he knew. When Jesus said that he was only hours away from his trial and crucifixion. He said it despite the fact that his countrymen lived under the repression of Roman rule. He said it in the face of a world still being devastated by sin, disease, war and great pain. And in the face of all of that he let’s us see that God is neither mad or sad in his creation. He is the most joyful presence above it and inside of it.
It is that joy that he came to share with us—a joy that consumes any pain, trial, failure, or struggle we might be in at the moment. It is a joy deeply based on the pleasure of God, his desire for us and his unfolding purpse in the world. He invites us to live in that space with him and let it prevail over the temporal pains of the world we live in. Paul called those “momentary, light afflictions” that produce in us an “eternal weight of glory.” This was the apostle who’d been stoned numerous times, shipwrecked three times, robbed on his journeys and lied about by close friends. Obviously he was focused on something far greater and far grander than those circumstances.
The joy Jesus spoke about is not temporal and thus swings with the fickle tides of circumstance. It goes deeply into his own character and purpose unfolding in this broken world.
That’s where I want to live—every day, in every situation. And, boy, do I have a ways to go there.
I hope you have a blessed weekend. Sara and I are getting read for our trip to South Africa for the next two weeks.