Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Is Joy in the Numbers?
Numbers can be interesting.
Thanks to an online concordance, I now know there are 242 references to “joy” in the Bible. Some 174 of them – that’s 72 percent – are in the Old Testament. The book with the great number of references is – no surprise – Psalms.
Of the 68 references to joy in the New Testament, 23 of them are in the four gospels, and 24 of them in the epistles of St. Paul. Six are in the Book of Hebrews (which some scholars believe was written by St. Paul or at his direction). The remaining 15 are scattered in Acts and the other letters. There are no references to joy in the book of Revelation.
What I find most interesting about all of this is St. Paul. I don’t typically associate him with joy. I think of him as an intense, serious, no-nonsense, everything is cut-and-dried kind of guy. Nodding in approval as Stephen was stoned to death. “Take Mark with us after he flubbed the first time? Forget it.”
So, in the time-honored tradition of forgetting about the splinter in my brother’s eye and instead focusing on the plank in my own, I asked myself that question. Am I a joyful person?
There’s no question that certain things bring me a kind of automatic joy: my grandson, Cameron; watching my daughter-in-law roll her eyes; my two boys; my wife, and the look on her face when she smiles.
To these I would add certain kinds of music, like when our church director of music really lets loose on the pipe organ (it’s like listening to angels singing); hearing a really good speaker who knows the subject offering a keen insight; the reaction I have when I write something and then see what I’ve done is good.
At another level altogether is the joy that happens when a prayer is answered, even when it’s not what I expected or hoped for; to see something in Scripture for the first time, even though I’ve read it a hundred times before; and then to hear a voice speak in unexpected ways.
All of these things bring me joy, but I can’t say that I stay in a constant state of it. I can be negative and down, sometimes even dark, when joy is banished away.
I think most people would consider me a serious person, who sometimes surprises with passionate outbursts. They would not look at me and think “joy.”
Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista went one step further and asked this question: is joy easy or hard for you?
My answer is: yes, it is hard and it is easy.
The cares and worries and concerns of each day have a tendency to grind joy out of a person, and there are days when it seems joy has permanently vanished.
And then there are times when joy erupts all over me, like when a grandson comes to visit at work.
Even when he’s fussy with teething, this one always brings me joy.
To see more posts on joy, please visit Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista. The links will be live Thursday morning. In the meantime, you can read Bonnie’s post (and all the linked posts) from last week here.
Top photograph: Open Bible by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.
Bottom photograph: Cameron Young, via my trusty smart phone. Used with Cmaeron's permission.