Do you know that the Lord Jesus is glad to see you? That when you walk into a room he notices you and his Spirit walks up to you with a beaming face and an enthusiastic hug? When you minister to people do they know that you are glad to be with them?
We all know that God loves us, but perhaps we believe this is a theological necessity. Actually, it’s the Father’s happy choice! He doesn’t just love you — Jesus shows you that God is an Abba who enjoys your company.
Everything in your spiritual life and ministry to others begins with basking in the joyful smile of Jesus Christ.
Sadly, throughout history joy has been one of the least appreciated characteristics of God and of godly people. To be spiritual we get serious. In a picture book that features 95 famous paintings of Jesus Christ’s face from the 14th to the 20th Century only one shows him smiling. Just one! (His Face: Images of Christ in Art).
Even as Jesus preaches the Good News and heals the sick he is portrayed like a somber religious man. It’s true that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV), but that was not his usual demeanor.
A veil of solemn religiosity has obscured our view of the resplendent Son of God who is full of joy and praying for us to be full of his joy (Luke 10:21; John 15:11, 17:13). Tragically, some early Church leaders actually forbade laughter because they associated it with worldly frivolity, hurtful sarcasm, drunkenness, and gambling (e.g., Benedict’s Rule).
Even Elton Trueblood’s book from 1964 with the promising title of The Humor of Christ was so dry that I (Bill) hardly cracked a smile as I read it. I appreciated that it was theologically astute and full of examples of Jesus’ humor, but it was boring. The drab way the book was written undermined its message on cheerfulness.
One year for my birthday a friend gave me a little book titled The Happy Texts which numbers over 800 “rejoicing passages” in the Bible.
Reading its 122 enthusiastic verses made my heart glad in God, really glad! I was carried by wave after wave of the Lord and his angels blessing us with pleasure, laughter, cheer, rejoicing, celebration, delight, and merry-making. My soul danced with David down the street in his Yahweh parade, exuberant in his vision of God: “In your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV).
The theme of the happy Scriptures is that godliness and pleasure go together. “Rejoice in the Lord!” is the succinct distillation of this principle and is repeated twelve times in the Bible. My favorite is when Paul is in prison and writes with a cheerful pen, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Or in other wording, “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!” (MSG).
Today let’s appreciate the smile of God in Jesus Christ till it brings a smile of joy to our face!
Today’s blog is an excerpt from the notebook for the Soul Shepherding Institute retreat on “Soul Care Ministry.” We invite you to apply to be part of this joyful community of authentic apprentices of Christ!
Listen to the companion SoulTalk: Imagine: Bible Reading that Blesses Your Soul
God has given us a vivid imagination! Bill and Kristi share their discovery of Ignatian Meditation and how it has deepened their relationship with the Lord.