WS Update: Joy

March 21, 2022

“I know there are Christians, so-called, who never crack a smile and who can’t abide a joke, and I suppose Presbyterians contribute their quota. But I don’t meet very many of them.”

Eugene Peterson.

I have to agree. I grew up with some churchy people who were rarely joyful. Then I met genuine Christians at college. I couldn’t precisely name it at the time, but there was something intriguing about them. They seemed radiant, more alive, more confident and humble at the same time, and far more welcoming. It was as if they shared a big secret that made all the difference in their lives. They were joyful.

Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit. The joy of knowing God and being known by him through Jesus is one of the greatest gifts that Christians receive. That gift enables Christians to do everything with deep contentment and radiance. It’s like applying a joy-filter on a digital picture — everything is still the same but it all looks better. In G. K. Chesterton’s words, joy really is the secret that makes Christians different: “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”

Joy sounds vague and often like a too-good-to-be-true promise. To the ears of most New Yorkers, that claim seems to be naive wishful thinking and they are partly right. When it’s detached from a profoundly deep understanding of the gospel, joy appears shallow. It’s one thing to be joyful and grateful when things are going well, but the mark of true joy is the ability to be quietly joyful even when circumstances are terrible.

After these past few years of heaviness and sorrow, and even fear, is it right to be joyful? Mature joy is a layer on top of all those other emotions not instead of them. It’s not denial, or insensitivity, or delusion. For Christians, joy in Christ is a necessary attribute that we can give to those who are suffering and hopeless.

Joy grows as we grow closer to Jesus.

Following Jesus for a long time allows joy to be refined over seasons of difficulty (see James 1:2-4). That seasoned joy is the fruit of a consistent sacred journey with the Spirit, able to withstand the attacks on true joy that come from anxiety, shame, envy, loss, self-indulgence, and counterfeits. We all are buffeted by things outside our control. When we see God’s powerful, tender care and come to rely upon it, our ability to persevere is grounded on patterns of experience. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” the psalmist writes.

The most joyful people I have ever met are old saints, who even on their deathbed radiate such joyful expectancy. They look forward to that day when soon they will see everything they have longed for face-to-face. May we all develop more joy as a mark of our maturing trust in our creator, Savior, and comforter.

Become a Member of RWS

Membership in a church is not like membership in a social club or other organization. Most organization members are consumers — the organization exists to serve them. The church of Christ is a completely different community — membership means ministry and service, going from being a consumer to becoming a provider of God’s love and care to others. At our RWS membership class, we cover what’s behind the five membership vows, how a PCA church is led, and how members step into our sacred call to love our neighbors and heal our city.

Coming up

  • Sign up for New at RWS, Apr 10: If you’re new to Redeemer West Side, we welcome you to come learn more about our church and get connected to community.
  • Access our lent page: Know about dates and times, lent devotional and more
  • Don’t Walk By: Uptown weekend, April 9: There’s still time to sign up for Don’t Walk By! Meet at The Salvation Army on 540 Lenox Ave, and learn ways to connect with neighbors in the uptown area.
  • Reflect on 40 Days of Hope -The Lenten season has begun! And to help you pray, serve, and give more this season, we’ve partnered with Hope for New York on a “40 Days of Hope” Lent calendar. Find ways that West Siders can serve our neighbors and our wider city. Show how you’re following the calendar by tagging West Side and Hope for New York on social media, and using #HFNY40DaysofHope.
  • Get prayer requests from HFNY affiliate partners: Hope for New York’s affiliate partners need your prayers! Sign up for a quarterly “Pray for Our City” newsletter that shares detailed prayer requests from various affiliates.