“We write this to make our joy complete.” ~1 John 1:4
Like John in this verse, I too wrote a book—called Champagne for the Soul—with the motive of completing my joy by sharing it. Happiness, oddly enough, can be a lonely business, because so few people share one’s joy.
I know very few people who strike me as deeply happy, yet I know many, many who are stressed, bewildered, sad, or depressed. Many are sad without even knowing it.
I wrote Champagne for the Soul as an attempt, in some small way, to change this picture. I want people to read my book and to grow more and more joyful with every page, just as I have done in writing it. In a sense I want to de-mystify joy, to make it common fare for every Christian. I want people to see that happiness is taught in the Bible and that God wants us to have it, starting now, and that the deep joy of living, far from being fickle, can be counted on to grow and expand and become purer and sweeter.
Like John I want my joy to come full circle by connecting with others. I know my joy is not complete until I have shared it, until others are happy along with me and for the same reasons. This is a biblical principle. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (2:2). John, not content just to write about joy, longed to share his joy in person: “I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12). Joy longs to share itself, to spill its banks and flood the whole world.
This morning someone in my neighborhood committed suicide. Having flirted with thoughts of suicide myself in former years, I know the pull that such a death exerts on other lives. Suicides tend to come in rashes. Everyone feels the tug of the spirit of despair that was powerful enough to suck a life prematurely out of the world.
Joy has the same potent effect. It’s contagious. If one person can break free of the world’s shackles and lay hold of joy, a powerful invitation is issued to everyone else. Here’s an influence the opposite of suicide—someone bent on living life to the full.
What keeps us from abundant life? Why are we so sad? As I look into the eyes of all the sad ones around me, what I see most is the desire to be understood, to be heard, to be embraced, to be accepted just as one is. In a word, to be forgiven.
Forgiven for what? For being so miserable, I suppose. What a vicious circle! People cannot be happy, it seems, until their unhappiness has been entirely accepted and absorbed by someone else. How is this possible? Who can do this for them? Who would be so foolish as to leave his own happiness to embrace someone else’s misery?
Only Jesus. And those who are filled with His Spirit. This is what Jesus came for, and this is what drove the Pharisees crazy—the way He’d look at a sick, paralyzed man who could do nothing for himself and say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.… Get up, take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:5,11). No counseling session, no ritual of repentance, not even a prayer—but in one second Jesus raises this man from total paralysis to full, energetic life.
He does the same today. He continues to say, not just to the physically sick but to the emotionally lame and broken, “I understand your unhappiness, and I accept you. Now leave your misery and get up and rejoice!” To the extent that you and I can convey afresh the heart of Jesus to those around us, our joy will be complete.
~from Champagne for the Soul, Chapter 33
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