Is Joy Offensive?
Is Joy Offensive?
I remember waking up the first time I lost a baby a few days after the delivery. It was the middle of the night and I felt an extreme sense of joy welling up inside me - I could almost hear angels singing around me. It seemed so foreign and wrong to be feeling so joyful only a few days after losing a child. My first reaction was, ‘God, is this You?! How can it be You?!’ His reply came clear and strong: ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’
This month every time I have felt my mind slipping into negative patterns of self-pity, complaint, depression, and giving-up I have reminded myself that I am meant to be putting on joy. Anna, remember, you are writing about putting on joy this month?! You need to put on joy right now!
My reaction to the idea of putting on joy shows me that joy is often offensive to me.
Joy is offensive to my British ‘realism’ upbringing, which is really negative responses to positive things. Joy is offensive to my feelings of being entitled and justified to feel like I feel. Joy is offensive to my habitual way of responding to my children’s mistakes, my discouragements, the inconveniences and things that are out of my control.
Joy is also offensive to others - in those moments I have felt supernaturally joyful, it often feels dissonant and out of tune with others. Joy often doesn’t feel ‘real’ and ‘true’ to the moment. You can be the most beautiful singer, but faced with a choir who all started singing on the wrong note, it can sound like you are the one off-key.
The kingdom is so offensive to the flesh - it is an offensive on the flesh.
I need to remind myself that putting on joy is an act of faith which will offend both my own flesh and others at times. The truth is, (despite the way you would respond if I asked you if you wanted to have supernatural levels of joy in your life everyday) everybody only wants a limited amount of joy, when they want it. We all think we want to be joyful all the time, but I’m not sure we really mean that when it means speaking out thanks and positivity when everyone else is complaining and moaning about something. I’m not sure many of us want to stand out like that and face the potential harsh reactions of others to our joy when it is out of tune with others.
Joy sounds great, but when you have to choose to be thankful for that person who is really irritating you, when you have to choose to praise God when you still have a mountain of toys and a mini-tribe of boys to herd and shower and you are exhausted, joy suddenly sounds like an enemy rather than a friend.
I want to feel good about things all the time, but not to have to put any effort into it. I don’t like resistance! It feels unnatural and uncomfortable. And besides, I’m just too tired right now, Holy Spirit, so can you come back when I am feeling a bit better?!
But as I have learned time and time again, it is when the greatest resistance is put up that the greatest breakthrough is just round the corner if I just keep going.
It is precisely in the moment when I stop and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and persevere in being thankful for the person I am finding hardest to love right now that I find joy starts flowing in that relationship.
It is when I finally give up and ask for a friend to pray for me about how to deal with a situation that I find breakthrough comes quickly.
It is when I least feel like writing and would rather do something else, that I find when I ask the Holy Spirit to help me the writing begins to flow and flow and flow.
It is in the moments where resistance is greatest, where joy is the most offensive, that it becomes a great offense on the enemy. It is there that heavenly perspective - the King’s perspective and His kingdom breaks through. It is there that we start seeing things from a truer perspective than our reality.
I love the fact that Jesus died and was buried as the Jewish sabbath was starting. (The Jewish sabbath starts on sunset Friday afternoon until sunset Saturday.) Observant Jews will not display grief or mourning on the sabbath. God did not desire his Son to be mourned or grieved by his followers - He had a greater perspective! He had pre-warned them of His death and resurrection and they should have been joyful, but instead they faced disillusionment, discouragement and roller coaster grief. I find it interesting that the Saturday night would have been the disciples and women’s first engagement with grieving their Saviour - the night right before going to the tomb the following morning and discovering Jesus was risen! Their darkest night would have come just before the greatest breakthrough!
So I am choosing to try and see things from God’s perspective. Where I seeing resistance and offense, I am instead trying to see a beckoning challenge for kingdom breakthrough. I am choosing to try and put on joy when it is offensive to me. It seems like a garment that is so inappropriate for the occasion, but when I humble myself, acknowledge my weakness and embrace His strength, I find that even if it still looks inappropriate on this earth, the garment fits perfectly for heaven, and that is my truer identity. And I need that joy to face the struggles of this life, as it is the joy of the Lord is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
Take a moment to reflect on the offensive nature of these Bible passages:
Let's put on Joy together:
Where in your day do you find the idea of putting on joy the most offensive?
Are you willing to humble yourself and ask for joy even when it feels offensive to you so you can see the kingdom breaking through in your life?
May we keep persevering in joy and see His kingdom break through! This is Day 15 of a 21 Day challenge to put on joy in practical ways. You can receive these posts by email by clicking to sign up here.