“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come” - an ancient Chinese proverb speaking of nurturing hope and faith despite whatever circumstances.
Joni Eareckson Tada was left a quadriplegic after a diving accident in 1967. She was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Her sparkling, confident outlook inspired thousands. This extract from her book Heaven, Your Real Home sums her up: “One night during an ice cream social, I powered my chair over to little red-haired Nicolle in her wheelchair, Tiffany, her friend, and Rachel, standing next to her in leg braces.
After a couple of comments about the ice cream, we were soon playing a game of tag. Wheelchair tag. Before long, a kid in a walker joined us with his sister. And then a child with Down syndrome and her brother. Weaving in and out around the legs of the adults, we giggled and screamed as our foot pedals chunked together, bumping and bouncing like Dodge’m cars.” She summed up the moment: “It was heaven because of the play and the joy and the sense of timelessness.” (Heaven, Joni Eareckson Tada, Grason Mn)
Joy comes from the heart, not from circumstances. Some personalities draw the most depressing conclusion from a minute mustard seed moment. Just when difficulties seem to have you trapped, that is when joy bubbles up from inside and finds the sunshine.
Patricia Harris put it beautifully: “A television series called “Dancing with the Stars,” puts emphasis on the fact that you can be a star in your own right but in order to dance you have to listen to the professional dance instructor that has been chosen to teach you to dance.
You have to follow their advice and practice. Much preparation is required in order to persevere to the end of the competition.” (Dancing with the Master, Patricia Harris, trusting-in-Jesus.com)
Years ago I enjoyed the writing of John Fischer in his book ‘Real Christians Dance.’ Often we are so staid and reserved, a smile is like a facial breakout!
After C. S. Lewis wrote ‘Surprised by Joy’, a personal letter was found inside a second-hand book. In it he wrote: “real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights” Lewis said: “Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again … I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”
We can often transfer our affections to the fleeting nature of pleasure and miss the internal combustion of joy.
Joy can come from simple moments. When I was a very little boy, our family was poor. We had no great expectations for Christmas apart from Church, fellowship and yummy baked lunch with nanna and pop and many uncles, aunties and kids.
I still remember waking that Christmas morning and finding a cricket bat. My dad had taken a paling and whittled it into shape. We played cricket that day and I still remember my joy and excitement.
Joy can be sparked in a moment but the joy inspired by faith is tangible, trustworthy and ever-constant. (My cricket bat split in a matter of days!)
When my wife and I lived in Israel we were struck by the optimism and joy, the people expressed in face of persistent threats.
The Hebrew word simcha (pronounced sim – kah) is translated joy and comes from the root word sameyach which means glad, happy or joy. “Serve the Lord with gladness (simcha); come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm chapter 100, verse 2) This verse is not a gentle suggestion or inference. It is a command. Joy is a vital ingredient of serving Him. If we know Him, we are joyful, regardless of our everyday circumstances. Our joy wells up from our innermost being.
“Cheerfulness is the key-note of the Jew’s character in his domestic life and in his religious devotion, because it is founded in optimism, upon faith in God, and hope in the final triumph of justice and truth,” according to The Jewish Encyclopedia.
German born Ann Frank died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp aged 16. She wrote in her diary “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” We can only imagine her circumstances when those inspirational words were written.
Rabbis love to use the Jewish wedding to illustrate joy. We attended quite a few delightful weddings in Jerusalem and I left each one thoroughly exhausted. Judith Lash Balint, the author of My Jewish Learning said: “At a Jewish wedding, the guests are mandated to whatever they can to make the couple joyful. Dancing, singing, donning silly hats and performing shtick (humorous acts), whatever it takes to increase the happiness of the newlyweds. But sometimes it’s the other way around – the pure, unadulterated joy of the couple radiates out and infects everyone present with its brilliance.”
If you are trying to sustain your life or your emotions by human effort, you will grow fragile and fail. “The joy of the Lord’ is our strength and on that we can rely.
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was an evangelist with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html