The Challenge of Joy

Have you ever considered how incredibly easy it is to be serious? Just yesterday the world lost an icon, a man who certainly changed my life, as I write on a Macbook and check my iPhone for messages. It is a sobering thing to realize that even Steve Jobs was a mortal.

There are plenty of reasons to be serious and solemn. If it is a slow news day, we just point out the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Israelis are daily taking aim at one another over a controversy that goes back to a faithless decision of the Father of three faiths.

The list goes on and on. We even take sports to a level of seriousness that makes us forget that the whole point is to relax and watch grown men and women play. I cannot tell you how many times in the past season I felt as if all was lost when my beloved San Francisco Giants failed to score runs when they needed them. How easy it is to be solemn even when we are trying to play! I am not alone in this. Have you recognized how many shows on ESPN consist of grown men shouting at each other as they decide who the Eagles’ quarterback should be in week 1? Silliness!

Our inability to be light-hearted goes deeper than we might think. It has much more to do with how we see ourselves than it has to do even with empathy. I hope somebody is sad when my days on the earth have come and gone- and much more so with a giant like Jobs, who truly left the world better, in many ways, than he found it. And social justice is a worthy goal to be pursued. We are not called as the body of Christ as people who accept injustice the way it comes. We take the side of the oppressed and pray and sweat and work for the image of God to be treasured in our neighbors.

We have all kinds of reasons to take ourselves seriously but the more telling one might be sports. Now, if you are reading this and you have already classified sports as a useless venture, you have already proved the point. We are too serious to relax. We are too grave to enjoy being together, even in the midst of chanting our teams’ fight song.

I remember growing up listening to baseball on the radio. One year the Giants were just awful, which is hard to narrow down since it encompasses much of my childhood. We knew it going into the season and nobody was confused or taken aback when Barry Bonds was the only guy on the team who looked like he had practice swinging a bat. I remember one of our announcers bemoaning the sorry club’s inability to do much of anything right. Night after night, even into September (that is, after four months of suffering through the hapless club) he would whine and whine about the team’s sorry state of existence. I remember being emotionally drained after listening to three hours of wet-blanketing.

I also remember recognizing how silly it was to take the games so seriously. The season was over before it started! Years later, I ran across a writer named G.K. Chesterton who made sense of our inability to be light-hearted:

Pride is the downward drag of all things into easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man “falls” into a brown study; he reaches up to a blue sky.

We will always have reasons for being heavy, solemn and serious. We will always have a reason to retreat into a brown study or a dark room with a single computer. We will always have a reason to cry- and indeed, there are times we would do well to cry. We will discuss the proper place for mourning in the next post, but for now let us consider a simple question: when was the last time you forgot yourself enough to enjoy yourself?

The answer may be revealing.

Take your burdens to Christ today. Rest. Enjoy him. He is for you.


This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King let Heaven ring. God reigns, let earth be glad!

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