“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11)
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Ps. 51:12).
Somewhere in that mist where childhood memories, family worships, and Scripture intersect, these words that my father frequently read to us from David’s penitential psalm still resonate. But at 5 years old, not everything is clear: how could you pray for joy restored unless you knew what joy already was? I assigned the anomalous couplet of Psalm 51 to a category of “things I’ll understand when I’m older.”
Even then, I grasped the gnawing persistence of deserved guilt: I had argued with my brother; sullenly refused to share my toys; failed to do my few allotted chores. I was at fault, and everything in my childish heart longed for the knowledge of forgiveness. But joy—apparently some stable condition to which one could be “restored”—this seemed remote and inaccessible.
And so it has seemed to millions of sincere believers in the centuries since the cross. We have assumed that joy would be the natural result when we were sure of divine forgiveness—as though the joy of God’s salvation was just a blackboard meticulously wiped clean of all our wretched scribbling.
But emptiness and erasure are not themselves the things of joy. The familiar cycle of sin, remorse, confession, and forgiveness only brings us to the threshold of the gift for which the psalmist prayed. Too few of us have yet inhabited the joyful space prepared for us. We circle endlessly about the home where Jesus intends we should daily live, for He made His intentions clear: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Forgiveness, crucial (cross-filled) as it is, doesn’t take us all the way to joy. We can step into the house of grace, built on a new and vital understanding of the Father’s essential benevolence toward us. The God who longs for us to one day live fully in the light of His presence invites us to a home where we are ever more assured of His deep affection for us—where we learn to trust His heart of love, and just how much He loves to heal. The words with which Ellen White begins and ends her majestic five-volume Conflict of the Ages series are still the signature of joy: “God is love.” Until we grow to believe the Father’s oft-repeated declaration about Himself, we live like wanderers instead of prodigals-come-home.
The Christian’s joy—a maturing faith in the gift of righteousness given us in Jesus—will not be fully grasped at 5, or 15, or sometimes, even 50. It has in it the unrelenting embrace of unreserved love, and the security of knowing that the Father is always filling up our cup of happiness.
As you explore this month’s edition, pray for awakenings—and joy—beyond what you have known.
And stay in grace.