Real Joy Has an Address by Matt Smethurst for The Gospel Coalition
As a dad, I’m not always pleased when my kids obey me. This is because they need to obey with a glad and sincere heart, and that is not always the case. Any child can muster grudging compliance. I’m longing to see a willing spirit and joyful trust.
The command to be joyful permeates the Scriptures, but it’s a bit strange if you think about it. Joy is an emotion, not a behavior. How can I be told to feel a certain way? What if I want to but just . . . don’t?
Let’s start with something we don’t often think about when it comes to God.
It may sound somewhat strange, but God is happy. Happier than the happiest person you’ve ever known. His gladness stretches back before the beginning, when infinite joy was contained within a triangle of love. For all of eternity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God in three persons—delighted to share the joy of divinity with one another.
So why did the triune God create the universe? Was he lacking something, perhaps compliant creatures to complete him? No. The creation of the world was an explosion of joy—not a filling up, but a spilling out. Consider that for a moment: Not only the astounding natural world, but you and I, created by God, are an overflow of his exceeding joy. In extravagant generosity, the persons of the Trinity decided to share their boundless gladness with the work of their hands.
What does this mini theology lesson have to do with approaching your Bible joyfully? Everything—because that’s the God who exhaled its words, and in whose image you are made.
You were made to be happy in a happy God.
Not an Accessory
Tragically, of course, the “happily ever after” of Genesis 1–2 was short-lived. Now we inhabit a Genesis 3 world, riddled with darkness and dysfunction and death, as I’m sure you’ve experienced. (If you haven’t, keep living.)
Have you ever wondered why the Bible is so lengthy? One reason is because God is so patient. It’s the long story of his longsuffering. And why has he been so patient? Because he loves us, yes. But even more specifically, because he’s been carefully executing a plan—a plan to share his endless joy with his rescued people, a multitude no one can count (Rev. 7:9).