Recapturing Joy

Many years ago a popular song included the lines. . .
“Across my dreams with nets of wonder
I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love.”

The song was about a hopeful romantic pursuing his vision of the perfect love, through setbacks, fears, and broken dreams. And I always remember that song when I think about joy. We search and long for it, even when we seem to be doing nothing. It is the steady state of every heart, whether we realize it or not.

God made us to be happy, and there certainly is no sin in pursuing joy. In fact, it’s a sin NOT to do so. But it is interesting, and often sad, how we pursue it, and where. We often go back to a time in the past when we were happier, or think of the “good old days” or recall times with friends when all seemed well. Who hasn’t played the “the best times ever” game? We try to recreate that picnic or day on the beach or walk with a lover or afternoon in the park. But it never works. Yqou just can’t seem to capture that old feeling.

I think there’s a reason for that, in fact two good reasons.

First, the occasions for joy in this life are always fleeting and elusive, because time does not stand still, and the best of joys last only for a while. There is a wistful poignancy to our joy, and it always is mixed with a little pain, since we realize we can’t grasp it and keep it. We can keep the carnation we wore or the rose we were given by pressing it within the pages of a book, but when we look at it years later, it’s just a wilted flower that’s lost its fragrance that seems to mock our fleeting happiness.

But more importantly, the things we rejoice in are meant to be only pointers to the true and eternal Joy, who is God Himself. So when we seek our ultimate joy in that which is not ultimate (eternal and overflowing with more than we could ever want or even expect), we are destined for disappointment.

The answer is not to give up on joy, or deny our longings. It is, rather, to RSVP to the Bible’s great invitation to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, ‘Rejoice!’” (Philippians 4:4). In His grace and righteousness you will never be disappointed, ashamed, or alone.

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