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.”

But joyful?

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.


Jerry said...

Joy seems always in the peripheral doesn't it? It appears and vanishes like driving on a sunlit day through a tree lined country road. I see you through your writing which is a balance between serious and joy. By the way...who would expect Joy to arrive with that grandson of yours.

richd said...

I wonder if we confuse joy and happiness? Maybe some additional analysis of what scripture means by "joy" would help?

Maude Lynn said...

Really interesting post. The way you described Paul is exactly the way I picture him. I don't associate him with joy at all.

Anonymous said...

Glynn, I love your reflections here. Joy is the word God led me to choose for my 2011 "focus" word. I'm excited to see what He'll teach me, and I do think it's different from happiness. More abiding, less about our immediate situation.

Lori Heyd said... could one look at that photo and not smile! What a cutie....:-)I think an attitude of joy is what is most important. Joy comes out of a person like a fountain. Sometimes submerged by hard circumstances but always not too far from the surface. I think of my Mom that way, her days are long with many many tasks, but yet she bursts into song at different times of the day because she knows where her strength and joy come from. Thank you for the post! Lori

Anonymous said...

That's a great conclusion. Joy is easy and hard. I'm definitely with you on that. Thanks Glynn.

David Rupert said...

I still remember your post on happiness and this relates to it. What a difference between the two!

S. Etole said...

Joy comes when we make room in our hearts for it regardless of circumstances.

That is one cute little boy!

Anonymous said...

i guess we don't always have to feel it to bring it.
like cameron brings joy to sometimes bring joy to others. even when you're serious :-)

Unknown said...

Interesting. I suppose I used to see Paul that way too,... especially when he was upset.

But now? As I read through his books, I find that joy he writes about pouring through. Maybe his joy wasn't, well ... bouncy ... but I think it was a rushing current through his soul that grew ever deeper as he matured in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Insightful blog! One might interpret that God wants us to find joy with all those references.

Joy said...

Your photo permissions made me giggle. :)

To Richd's question, I have always differentiated joy and happiness in my mind. I have no idea whether it's accurate, but I usually think of happiness as contingent on my circumstances -- I'm happy when everything is going my way, according to my plan. To me, joy is inner peace and calm, the ability to trust in God's sovereignty even when everything outside is spinning out of control.

But that's just me. :)

Unknown said...

We'll be grandparents this Summer. I'm so excited. So, of course, everything before your grandson bringing joy is a blur to me now...LOL.

I just can't wait!

Bonnie Gray said...

I loved the information on numbers of joy in the Bible and also the transparency into your thoughts in this post, Glynn. The two are very insightful and encouraging. I realized through reading that joy is a quality that is baking in us, the more we draw near to Jesus in all of life's circumstances, including whatever the condition of our hearts. Your writing brings me joy.

Dustin said...

Having joy when things aren't "going your way" is definitely a hard thing... which shows the importance and meaning of true joy, one that has joy in Christ. Thanks for sharing Glynn.