Johnny Lee’s song, “Looking For Love” is a fitting description of our search for joy. All we have to do is replace the word “love” with “joy.” Like this: I was lookin’ for joy in all the wrong places. Lookin’ for joy in too many faces. Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces of what I’m dreamin’ of.
Sounds a bit like you and me, doesn’t it? I’m increasingly convinced that our search for joy is fruitless because we’re not sure what joy actually is. Joy is not so much an emotion, an attitude, or a state of mind. Joy is a posture of the heart.
One often neglected heart posture that fosters joy is godly dependence.
Dependence is the state of relying on someone or something else; unfortunately, dependence is treated largely like a disease these days. We prefer a strong, red meat diet of self-reliance, but self-reliance is the humanist creed and many Christians, including me, have adapted it into their own. Don’t get me wrong. By dependence, I do not mean snivelling weakness. The hammer depends upon the one who swings it. An oak tree depends upon the one who watered it when it was an acorn. The bloom on a tree depends on a million graces from God for its beauty.
Great men and women alike are dependent and recognize that dependence. Paul was dependent, learning through affliction to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (II Cor. 1:8-9). David was dependent, reminding himself and us that “blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” (Psalm 40:3-4).
Those who are dependent on God still hunt down Goliath. They still mount a siege on Jericho, but their weapons are song and five smooth stones.
Those who are dependent on God could also be called meek. The meek are given a promise in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew Henry writes, “The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy [could we say, “joy-filled”?], even in this world.”
Meekness requires dependence.
This, my friends, is a high calling of Christian living: daily dependence upon the One who swings us and the One unfolds us into life and light. A posture of dependence remembers, moment by moment, that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
Want joy? Practice a posture of godly dependence.
We’ll explore more of Joy’s heart postures next week. I’d love to hear from you. Won’t you share the one word description of a heart posture you find most difficult to sustain? The opposite of that word is probably linked somehow to joy.
[photo by Noah Palpant]