the work of joy.

You might say there are two kinds of people in the world: joyful people, and not-joyful people.

We say it with wistfulness in our voice, as if joy is the same as winning the lottery or losing a ton of weight.

We know it happens, we’re just not sure it happens to us.

If we’re not the joyful person, we can point out who IS.

If we are the joyful person, chances are we think everyone is like us.

The reality is that joy is work.

Joy is the fruit of plunging our trembling fingers into the dark black soil of our lives, funneling through clay and weed and root to finally loosen this gem – this precious stone – from several inches of dark humus that has it buried. We have to cultivate joy, intentionally choose joy, and let ourselves realize the viciousness of joy in the midst of total confusion.

Confusion? Yes. Most of us are terribly confused and we believe happiness is the same thing as joy.

It isn’t.

Happiness is tickling of our own personal needs and desires. It can be shared, it is worth celebrating with a meal or a cake, snapping photos for the ‘Gram, on and on. Happiness is not bad.

However, happiness turns tail and runs when adversity comes. I’ve talked about this before.

The work of joy means choosing it when happiness is long gone, leaving only dirty laundry and a pleasant scent of former presence.

The work of joy means engaging depression, disappointment, and all-out death with the perspective that there is light in the darkness.

The work of joy means fasting, praying, and crying out in frustration so that we can learn that there’s no resurrection without crucifixion. Joy means finding both.

In speaking of Jesus, the author Hebrews says, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (12:2)

We don’t think this way.

We don’t like this way of thinking.

This is uncomfortable.

Yet this is joy.

Joy is knowing that while we’re dying we’re waiting to rise – that there is no resurrection without crucifixion. So we shape ourselves to wait, to wail, to lament, to toss aside the absurd intoxication with self-fulfillment that is most of our commercial culture and bury our face in the cool dark earth of life with all of it’s briars and thorns.

There, chewing through the roots, we find it. We find joy. We find resurrection.

Your disciplines, practices, relationships and habits of walking with Jesus are all keys – they’re all spade-strokes – unearthing something of immense value.

Don’t stop. Work for joy.