“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” – Charlotte Brontë
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4 NRSV). Two thousand years ago Paul exhorted the church in Philippi with these words and Christians have struggled to embody them ever since. However, our fallen human nature often works against us. It is important to note that there is a time for lament, evidenced by the large number of Psalms under the lament category. Yet, our hope is in the the resurrection of the dead. We live a life full of joy not because all is right with the world, but because we know that there will be a new heaven and a new earth where “Death… mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev 21:4). We share our joy with others because we are bursting at the seams with “all joy and peace” and “abound[ing] in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). And when others around us receive joy in the Spirit, we experience even greater joy. So we share with others, knowing that death and despair have been overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony” (Rev 12:11).
What to Consider
- What tendencies have you noticed in your own life to focus on either positive or negative experiences? How does this tendency encourage or discourage feelings of joy?
- How can you balance sharing joyful experiences in a community while also making space for sharing painful experiences.
- How might the different ways we express joy differ from culture to culture? Might some cultures be more likely to share positive experiences than others? How will these differences impact your life and ministry?
How to go Deeper
- Set aside a few weeks in the year to tell stories of gratitude in your worship services. Consider providing multiple opportunities for sharing. Make space for sharing during corporate worship and in small groups. You might even coordinate gatherings around dinner where participants can share experiences of joy with each other.
- Hold a ministry fair and invite organizations in your community that are committed to human flourishing in your neighborhood. Follow up with stories about the positive experiences of God’s work through these partnerships.
- Preach a sermon series about biblical characters who experienced joy despite experiencing hardships. Examples of this might include Joseph, Ruth, David, Paul, and of course, Jesus.
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