I spoke with a friend at church a few weeks back about this blog and the 90 day experiment. We talked of the wrestling match he’s finding himself in during this 90 day of living in joy – how to live with gladness in a broken and hurting world. He talked about his genuine struggle to feel authentic joy knowing there are children with bloated and hungry bellies, women cowering under a fist of abuse, too many wasting away of HIV/AIDS, nations ruled by corrupt dictators.
I get that struggle. What right do we have to joy in a world bent over with sorrow? How dare we enjoy lightness and delight in the face of scandalous misery and injustice? Maybe not even in the face of it but even with such horrors somewhere in the neighborhood? It has the feel of self-absorption, a luxuriating indifference to all that’s wrong.
But here’s what I’m wondering – can you be a person of justice and compassion without a strong rooting in joy? Perhaps a better question is this: what will make your life deeply compassionate, someone quick and ready to fight injustice and care for the overwhelming needs of the marginalized and poor?
Guilt won’t do it. You might be prompted to send some money for hungry Asian children because of a guilt hangover. You may do guilt-induced work for justice for victims of oppression – in the short term. But guilt is not a long term energy for moral. It’s sort of like sugar – you might get a quick boost of action but wait for the low because it is coming. Guilt simply won’t fuel a lasting life of justice and compassion.
I’m growing convinced that joy and gladness are the needed resources to fuel a just and compassionate life. There’s a really strong hint of this in Hebrews 12 where it reports that Jesus “for the joy set before him, endured the cross.” With his gaze locked in on joy, Jesus fully entered our misery, suffered injustice and mockery, endured pain. Joy was the motivating impulse for the cross, which makes me wonder if it is only joy which will actually move any of us to become justice hungry citizens.
Instead of questioning the legitimacy of joy in an often misery filled world, could it be that joy is exactly what you need to brave the misery, face the brokenness and live justly and compassionately in this world?