top of page

Contemplating God's Joy

“When the Shepherd found the sheep, He did not punish him, nor did He drag him to the fold. He rather put him on His shoulders, and carried him gently and included him in the fold” (St. Gregory Nyssa).

What compassion and joy there is in our God. We spend a good deal of time talking about how we ought to live. We should give as much time, if not more, contemplating how He lives, how He exists, the kind of exuberant joy and love that is God.

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

Heaven rejoices at the repentance of one sinner.

What does it even mean, “heaven rejoices”? How can anything add to the joy in heaven? Nikolay Motovilov asked his confessor, St. Seraphim, what it meant to be caught up in the Holy Spirit. At that moment, the young man witnessed light radiate out of the saint. Everything glowed: “indescribable calm…extraordinary sweetness…extraordinary joy…extraordinary warmth…and the smell, like nothing on earth that could match this fragrance.” He had a glimpse of heavenly joy, as it clings to the saints on earth. How much more brilliant is that joy at the altar of God?

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

We cannot wrap our minds around bliss in heaven. How can we fathom that anything we could do could add to that joy? Yet, our Lord assures us, there are times when heavenly bliss surges and overflows. When? All heaven rejoices when one of us, broken and dysfunctional as we are, turn our hearts toward God.

“And when he comes home, [the shepherd] calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (Luke 15:7).

God is the essence of Joy. Joy is always sacramental, because it comes from a divine source. It is like the ray of a sun. The experience of joy is to be pricked by that ray. However slight, you can always follow it up back to God.

C. S. Lewis explains that the quality of joy is distinct become it comes with “the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing…All joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away, or still ‘about to be” (Surprised by Joy). Joy reminds us of God. If we think of God as a crotchety, angry despot, then the image of “God” in our head is an idol and lie. The halls of heaven echo with laughter and mirth.

It is hard enough to imagine angelic joy. In our parable, we discover our Lord Himself rejoicing, carrying the wounded lamb back to the fold. His joy is exuberant, so much so that he calls all heaven to join him in rejoicing. Why? Because of one sinner.

Who is this God so joyful because of us?

“The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you” (Isaiah 30:18). “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).

The Book of Jeremiah reveals God’s patient longing for his scattered people. As the letter unfolds, you get a clear image of God’s attitude towards a fallen person. “Is he my dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him. My heart years for him; I will surely have mercy on him” (31:20).

This is the vision of God given us. We have to hold onto it in our spiritual journey.

Guilt can play a role in our effort to turn to God. A dose of fear is healthy. The recognition that without God we are a train wreck is a good thing. A commitment to duty ought to guide us. Yet, before all these, first and foremost, our life should be built on wonder at God’s love.

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,” C. S. Lewis continues. “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum” (Weight of Glory).

You can sum up Christian spirituality in two words: Desire God.

Our God is the God of joy. The Gospel is a story of God bending the universe for no other reason than to share that joy.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).


Recent Posts
bottom of page