Oh Joy, A Ramble with Questions

Lewis writes that infinite joy is offered to us, but we reject it for silly things. How do we do this? Why do we do it? Socrates says that people act unvirtuously only because they act in ignorance. Maybe we do not understand how joy in Christ is supposed to work. We try to understand it, but can’t quite grasp it.

I’m not so sure about that, Socrates, though I sympathize with the thought. Rather, I think it is more accurate to describe it in this way. We say, “It is too hard to abandon self and seek to magnify the glory of Your name! I can’t do it!” All the while, The Ever-Joyful One is face-palming, because it is not supposed to be hard — he is showing us how to have joy, not how to be miserable. We would expect to desire joy, but when we are told how to be joyful, we do not listen. Do we actually desire joy, then?

Kierkegaard writes that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but offense. God tells us exactly how to have joy — love Him, and make Him your purpose, and make His finished work your identity. Do we take offense to this, or do we embrace it?

I try to embrace it, but the words just do not form a meaning I can approach and do. I hear the words. “Find your all in Him.” But how is auditory experience to form a transcendent meaning? Wittgenstein, I feel drawn to your problems for the first time. How can this be done? How can His work be my joy? How can my life be centered around something outside of my life? Maybe Socrates was on to something after all.

Then again, “I been thinking too much, I been thinking too much. Help me.” Sigh. I have found it hard to give up myself. But the entire point is not that it is hard — the point is that it is good. It is freedom. How can it be that I know how to free myself of my shackles, and I desire to have freedom, and yet I struggle and find it difficult to free myself! I do not understand my own actions.

Maybe I am simply plumbing past my ability. “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up / My eyes are not raised too high / I do not occupy myself with things / Too great and too marvelous for me. / But I have calmed and quieted my soul / Like a weaned child with its mother / Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” — The philosopher’s evening prayer. When I see some type of difficulty or profundity, I jump into it, forgetting the three and a half dozen other perplexities I live in, needlessly adding to myself another. Here is an observation: vexation is exciting to me. My soul, what’s up witchu?

Or, am I simply in the well-trod path of sanctification? “Maturing in Christ means seeing more and more the depths of your own sin, and seeing more and more the depths of the forgiveness and redemption of the Cross.” I certainly am feeling my own sin and inexplicable refusal to have joy afresh every day. I Asked The Lord to make me into a man that would use the talents He gave me. “But it has been in such a way / As almost drove me to despair.”

“Lord, why is this? I trembling cried. / Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?” “These inward trials I employ / From self and pride to set thee free / And break thy schemes of earthly joy / That thou mayst seek thy all in me. That thou mayst seek thy all in me.” And the song ends, and I know it is an ending. But Lord, how do I seek my all in You? Even if I attempt to do this, it is me attempting to do it, not me relying on You to do it for me. But I know that if I let go, I will stagnate into floundering sloth. I am afraid that I am actually seeking my all not in you, but in my seeking of my all in you. How can I seek my all in you when this ludicrous thought arrives? What is the meaning of synergistic sanctification?

My mind has built labyrinthine passages for my mind. How can I escape them? I cannot, alone, because it is all dark and I can’t see my hand in front of my face. But I can shout that I need the Spirit to take me out of my passages, even as I continue searching for a way out. If he provides the medicine and we do not take it, then how can we be healed?

So, Father, I pray that I would not take offense to your answers. I trust them to be true, even when I don’t exactly understand what they mean or how to put them into my life. I will continue to inquire in your temple, and I will be patient for understanding.

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