Joy in the Balance

[Prefacing Note: This post represents a second installment (of four) on Joy as it is characterized in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians [what some have called the “epistle of joy”… for all the ways the word appears throughout its four chapters].   Taking rich and meaningful words/concepts (like Joy) and distinguishing them from their secular-cultural counterparts (like “happiness” and “feeling good”) is a crucial task of spiritual formation.]

A paradox is the necessary bringing together of two seemingly contradictory premises into one greater, fuller Truth. 

Our Christian Faith is full of such tensions — beginning (and ending) with Jesus Christ, who is not only the chief paradox but who is, also, the great reconciler in all such tensions.

Among the paradoxes of our faith
is that which surrounds the truth about
our importance, our value, our place as individuals.

On the one hand, each of us is a precious child of God—
beloved and beautiful and sacred.
Writes Max Lucado:

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, Your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen.
He could live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart.
What about the Christmas gift He sent you in Bethlehem;
not to mention that Friday at Calvary.
Face it… He’s crazy about you.

And yet, in necessary tension with this premise is the reality life isn’t about me or you.  As much as we think or behave otherwise, we are not the center of the Universe.

It’s a paradox at the heart of joy,
which we see there in Philippians 2:5ff –
which I might paraphrase as follows:

Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus:
who, though he was beloved of God—
indeed, at the Center which is God,
did not count equality with God
as something to be hoarded.

But, who emptied himself –
wiling to live the lowliest of lives, and
willing to die the most gruesome of deaths.

As made known in Jesus,
Joy (Divine delight and pleasure)
Is a matter of both:
believing that we are God’s beloved
AND
humbly stepping down into a place of lowliness and servitude.

Truth is, we all need to variously hear
each of these messages throughout our lives.
Sometimes we forgot how beloved we are.
Sometimes we forget that we don’t need
to take ourselves so seriously.

For some reason, Psalm 8:4-5 comes to mind here:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
And yet, you have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.

Yes, we are crowned with glory and honor!
But, beware:
we ought not take ourselves too seriously;
we aren’t at the top of the pecking order!
Or, as John Ortberg puts it,
“There is a God (and it’s not you)
Who has a wonderful plan for your life!”

In the balance of that glory and humility, Dear Friends, is Joy –
God’s delight and pleasure over us… and in us!

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