joy: a moral obligation

Given the opportunity to experience joy, are we morally obligated to take advantage?

My cousin Vince sent me a text in the hours between night and morning – just a little note about he and his new college friends wrestling with the idea of joy.

It’s something I’ve been in the middle of pondering for a couple days and reading his text in partial wakefulness brought it into clearer view – what do we do when joy is on the other side of an open door?

Open Doors
Open Doors (Photo credit: *Fede*)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good,” from Psalm 34:8 and “Delight in the Lord and He will give the desires of your heart,” from Psalm 37:4 both imply action before experience. A person can read these verses a hundred times, recite them with monk-like stoicism and meditate on them with scholarly reverence. But, there is a threshold implied in the command, for tasting and seeing happen only with open mouth and eyes.

Something must be eaten to be tasted, no?
Something must be experienced before it is pronounced delightful, no?

What do these open doors to joy look like and how many have I walked by?

It’s crazy how relentless God is to pursue us with opportunities to experience Him. He doesn’t give up when I pass by an open door marked “FOR YOUR JOY” with a foolish hope that there is something better down the road. He doesn’t flinch when I’ve opted out of His best for my safe settling of just okay. His patience in pursuit overwhelms me because it’s so altogether different from our apathetic inclinations.

I’m still thinking through these joy questions – still trying to figure out if it’s a sin to walk by those open doors clearly marked for God’s glory and my joy. But I’m not confused about joy being good. It’s something I’m willing to fight for.

Here are some helpful ways to fight for joy, from John Piper at Desiring God.

4 thoughts on “joy: a moral obligation

  1. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
    From experience, I know that joy comes from being in the presence of the Lord at the very time when you need strength. It often arrives when tears are falling down and your heart is heavy and you need strength to breathe. Which is exactly how He wants it. Joy is sometimes not born of obligation, but of suffering.

    1. I think I’ve done a silly job of making sense because I agree. The joy of the Lord is your strength (often born of suffering and never out of obligation), but do you not need to choose joy? In our times of deepest suffering, does not God offer a door to joy that we can either accept or refuse?

  2. I wonder how many open doors for joy I’ve passed by since starting this new school year. Probably lots. I’m going to watch out for them more consciously now. i love this.
    I think I’ll go put John Piper’s list up on my bathroom mirror. 😉

    1. Tara – such a great idea! Maybe we should all report open doors to joy that we’ve taken… Like a victory report that gives God the glory for supplying the joy and us the blessing!

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