Ignoring reality does not breed joy. Pretending that what is true does not exist is not holy defiance. The seeds of joy can only be firmly planted in the pungent soil of the here and now while at the same time being tethered to eternity. Joy is fully rooted in the truth. Joy embraces all the senses and is fully awake to the laughter, the wonder, and the beauty present in the moment as well as the sorrow, the angst, and the fear. Joy says, “Even so, I have a reason to celebrate.”
Crazy, right? Sounds like God. A God who laughs at the sneers of the enemy, stares suffering in the face, and proclaims with fierce love, “You do not have the final word.” And as He does, He captures our deep hearts with a hope that defies death.
Defiant may not be a word we would normally associate with the living God, but it can actually be quite fitting. Defiance means resistance, opposition, noncompliance, disobedience, dissent, and rebellion. And when it comes to things that would destroy our souls, that is exactly the right response.
We are called to resist the lies of the enemy. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, we do not comply with the Vanity Fair offerings of the world. We are instructed not to obey the clamoring of the flesh. We are urged to rebel against sin. By the life of Christ in us, we oppose death and destruction. We dissent by casting our vote against the belief that sorrow and endless suffering win Instead we welcome life, love, and the full work of Christ to bring all of His goodness into every aspect of our and His domains. We comply with truth. We obey our God. We respect His authority and His final say. We overcome evil with good. We defy hatred by embracing love.
We choose joy.
In the midst of all the suffering in the world, it can feel irresponsible, even frivolous, to have joy. And yet, and still, we are called to it. Certainly there is a time to grieve. There is a time to mourn. To wail. To sigh. There is a time to know our loss and not have to cheer the teppanyaki chef, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have joy even in that painful knowing. Joy is the heartbeat of the kingdom of God. Joy is what sustains us; it is our strength. We can be resilient. We can be filled with the expectation of good things.
And we can have joy in the midst of the lamentations of our lives.