Dear Friends, as I write this, I’m filled with mixed emotions. It’s not only leaving our Lincoln Park family but also retiring after many years of ministry that has me deep in thought.
Thinking Out Loud – Summer 2014
“The joy of the Lord is my strength” – Nehemiah 8:10
from Pastor Dave
There is a misnomer that is circulated in some Christian circles that Christians should always be “happy”. When our lives do not live up to this expectation, we question ourselves and seek to produce the happiness we feel we lack. This can result in a never ending grab for happiness that only leaves feeling more despondent then before.
But there is a subtle, yet important difference with our modern day idea of happiness and how it is understood in the Bible. While we have been led to believe that happiness has more to do with our outward circumstances, in the Bible, happiness, which is more aligned with the word “joy”, is understood as a gift from God that comes from within. It is not dependent upon outward circumstances.
The Greek word for “joy” (markarios) which is also interpreted as “happy” is used by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. “Joyful (happy) are the poor in spirit.” “Joyful (happy) are those who mourn.” What is interesting is that this word markarios can also be interpreted as “blessed”. Those who are joyful are also blessed. Both are a gift from God. While our modern day understanding of happiness comes from without, joy comes from within.
I have witnessed joy in everything from the birth of a child, to the union of a husband and wife, to a fiftieth wedding anniversary. But, I believe that joy is most clearly witnessed in moments of suffering and loss: in the hopeful words of a mother whose young son has just had serious surgery and whose prognosis is uncertain, in the smile of a seventy five year old man, with a wife, nine children through a second marriage, and many more grandchildren, who is suffering with stage four pancreatic cancer but who expresses gratitude for having had a good life, in the grateful tears shed by a family who have lost their eighty five year old wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. While outward circumstances would deem otherwise, joy rises up and sustains those who have made the Lord their strength. In spite of their circumstances, they continue to count themselves as part of the blessed.
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