Monday, February 4, 2008

Daily Joy

Reading Jen's blog today prompted me to refer back to this quote from Elizabeth Elliot, read via another of my daily blogs.

Joy is not a word we use much nowadays. We think of it poetically as the
opposite of sorrow, another word that does not often come into conversation.
Both words represent experiences one does not normally have every day.

But I think we are mistaken. I think joy is meant to be an everyday
experience, and as such it is the exact opposite of boredom, which seems to be
the everyday experience (am I being overly pessimistic?) of most Americans. I
get the impression that everybody is always hoping for a chance to get away from
it all, relax, unwind, get out of these four walls, find somewhere, somehow,
some action or excitement. Advertising, of course, has done a splendid job of
creating in us greed for things we would never have thought of wanting, and
thereby convincing us that whatever we have is intolerably boring. Attributing
human wants to animals, we easily swallow the TV commercials that tell us that
Morris the cat doesn't want tuna fish every day, he wants eight different

"Godliness with contentment is great gain.'' Those words were written a
long time ago to a young man by an older man who had experienced almost the
gamut of human suffering, including being chained day and night to a prison
guard. Contentment is another word which has fallen into disuse. We think of it,
perhaps, in connection with cows--the best milk comes from contented ones,
doesn't it?--but it doesn't take much to content a cow. Peace and fodder are
probably all it asks. We are not cows. What does it take to content us? How
could Paul, after what he had been through, write as he did to Timothy?

C. S. Lewis, one of the most godly and civilized men I have ever heard
of, exemplified what Paul was getting at. Lewis wrote that he was never bored by
routine. In fact, he said, he liked it. He had what his anthologist Clyde S.
Kilby called "a mind awake." Why should routine spoil it? Pictures of him show a
joyful man. But he was not a man unacquainted with poverty, hard work, and
suffering any more than Paul was. He knew them, but he knew, too, what lay
beyond. "All joy," he wrote to a friend, "(as distinct from mere pleasure, still
more amusement) emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings. "Those wantings lie in the deepest
places of our being, and they are for the kind of joy that, according to Lewis,
is "the serious business of heaven." So we waste our time, our money, and our
energies when we pursue so frantically the pleasures which we hope will bring us
relief from boredom. We end up bored with everything and everybody. Work which
can be joyful if accepted as a part of the eternal order and a means to serve,
becomes only drudgery. Our pettiest difficulties, not to mention our big ones,
are cause for nothing but complaint and self-pity. All circumstances not
deliberately arranged by us look like obstacles to be rid of. We consume much
and produce little; we get depressed, and depression is actually dangerous and

But there is another way. Paul made it perfectly clear that his
contentment had nothing to do with how desirable his circumstances were. "I am
content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities." It is
no list of amusements. How, then, did it work? It worked by a mysterious
transforming power, something that reversed things like weakness and hardship,
making them into strength and joy. Is there any chance that it will work for us?
Is there for us, too, an antidote for boredom? The promise of Christ was not for
Paul alone. "My grace is sufficient for you." It's a gift to be accepted. If we
refuse it, nothing will be enough and boredom will be the story of our

Isn't that an incredible reflection? What more could I say?