There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. . .
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . (Ecc 3:1,4)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22)
Holy delight and joy is the perfect antidote to the difficulties we face in the world and from pure and honest delight comes genuine gratitude. Joy is the end result of the spiritual disciplines, the fruit of a soul transformed by God. Without the effect of the disciplines that we engage, true joy will evade us and we will settle for the shallow waters of fleeting pleasures and mud pies. As C.S. Lewis preached in the Weight of Glory,
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
The modern Church has made an idol of adversity and trouble, misunderstanding the role of evil. We have taken the Lord’s promise of troubles (John 16:33) to be the whole of our lot in life, making it into something to be endured until we can reach the other side. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We were created to have joy and know the bottomless depths of happiness that come from living within the Lord’s kingdom and knowing restored relationship with Him. Pleasure is not a sin. We dishonor God by avoiding and fearing it as much as we would by living strictly for its pursuit or becoming dependent upon it. God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 14 points the way:
Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. (Dt 14:26)
As His children, his servants, his worshippers we are to know joy always (Phil 4:4). It is to be our mark but instead, we have become dour and puritanical, fearing that any joy or pleasure will lead us into a temptation from which there is no return. We should be thankful that God chooses to challenge us in the various ways that He does. God works all things for good over the span of His view and finite nature of our understanding can lead us to suspect otherwise. Worse yet, in our narrow view it becomes easy to deny the way in which evil infects our world and our minds associate the Father with the source of the most horrible tragedies.
Celebration is the core of the way of the follower of Christ, a perpetual Jubilee rooted in the trust we have in God. Discipline is the way to get there.