Reflection by Lesle Cropp
What brings you joy?
Is it your grandchildren; or rain falling; or birdsong?
Different things for different people.
But can joy be found in times of pain and sorrow?
In western culture, joy is confused with happiness. Yet Jesus preached, “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” (Matthew 5.3-11). By God's grace, we can have joy even when facing difficult circumstances.
Paul writes to the Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” (Phil 4.4) To Paul, joy isn't a choice – it is a command! Rejoice despite our circumstances.
How is this possible all the time?
The key to Christian joy is its source – Rejoice in the Lord. Christ is in me and I am in him. That relationship becomes a constant, free-flowing source of joy. We rejoice in the Lord and what he has done for us on the Cross. Even if the Christian struggles to rejoice in trying times, we still rejoice in Christ and the salvation he has wrought for us.
“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering;
it is the presence of God”, Robert Schuller writes.
Our reading today didn't start with joy. On Easter morning, the women approached the tomb of Christ in deep despair. They had abandoned all hope and were lamenting the death of Jesus. Out of the very epicentre of the women's grief comes the steadying reassurance,
“He is not here...He is risen from the dead.” (v6)
The first inkling of joy can be found in the darkest moments of our lives when we are most likely to seek God's rescue. Then we are more receptive to his nearness; more meek to his dominion over us.
Knowing the unfathomable truth that -
Christ has died;
Christ is risen;
Christ will come again;
rises up within us the deepest, unquenchable, most amazing joy.
In ALL circumstances.
We live to celebrate Easter Day with gladness, only because Jesus lives. Because Jesus defeated death and rose again, as witnessed on that Easter morning by the women at the tomb, we can rejoice in all circumstances. In profound thankfulness for the work of Christ, we rejoice in the Lord always.
Joy founded in the Risen Christ will overcome the distress of ill health; console the grief of death and loss; and combat the nagging of self-doubt.
Joy is not a feeling – a happy clappy, perpetually grinning, sunshiny demeanour in all circumstances. No human effort can sustain such a state.
Joy is a knowing – a confidence and complete trust in the Risen Christ, not by human effort but from an acceptance of God's grace.
Knowing that truth draws us -
from sadness to gladness,
from lament to hope,
from despair into a deep, all-encompassing, ever-throbbing joy down in our heart.