Remember the story about the prodigal son? The one that went away and squandered all his money? Abandoned his family?
Remember the part where the father welcomes this son back with much joy and celebration?
But the father said to his servants,‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Now do you remember the other son’s reaction?
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’
This son was angry. He heard the sounds of the party. He found out that the fattened calf had been killed for the celebration. He could sense the overwhelming joy in his father’s voice.
And yet here in verse 28, he refused to go in. Refused to join the joy.
How much did this son miss out on?? I think he missed out on much more than what the prodigal son missed out on while he was running from life. This older son missed out on the opportunity to join the joy of receiving this wayward brother of his back home. He missed out the opportunity of joining in joy with his Father whose son was once lost but now is found.
Instead, he was bitter. Angry. Spiteful. Disrespectful.
And so I think, how often do I miss out joining in the joy due to my selfish bitterness? How often do I miss out on the chance to celebrate in this life, because my eyes are set on the here and now pain; on the here and now “unfairness” of life. For example, yesterday I celebrated absolutely nothing, as you can see in my post here.
So how does one “join joy”? What does “joining joy” look like?
I think it is being intentional to see what God is doing–even the seemingly small things–and rejoicing in them. I think it’s being aware of the joy in other people’s lives, and joining with them in their joy. For example, this morning a dear friend celebrated 5 years of being cancer free. That’s joy. This morning I got to introduce myself to a visitor at church who brought her 5 year old disabled daughter to church to listen to the music, because the music brings her daughter joy. That’s real life. There are examples all around us; we must be intentional in looking for them and then be active to join them.
Now let’s be honest. This isn’t simple to do. Especially if you are hurting. Especially if you are grieving. But I’m coming more and more to believe that just as it is a part of community to join in each other’s pain, it is a part of church community to join in each other’s joys….small and large. We must guard our hearts against jealousy, though, which we could easily fall into.
But it’s allowing ourselves to join the joy of others that God will bless with joy in the joining.