at only three letters & one syllable, joy is a powerful word…it’s also my favorite word. but in its day-to-day use within my vocabulary, joy has somehow lost its power & along the way i have forgotten its true meaning.
by its dictionary definition, joy is a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated. i would like to argue, however, that joy is not simply just an emotion, but instead is also an action, a choice, a lifestyle. i think Paul & Silas would agree.
in Acts 16, starting in verse 16, Paul and Silas are in the city of Philippi when they are arrested for casting out a spirit from a slave girl. Stripped of their clothes & severely flogged, Paul & Silas are thrown into the inner cell of a prison where their ankles are fastened into stocks. beaten & bloodied, the skin ripped from their backs, the men have been rendered immobile.
life has a way of putting us in the stocks, doesn’t it? sometimes locking us in for so long we begin to doubt if we’ll ever be free again. we look around and see the pain & suffering of others as the daily headlines read of death & war & disaster. we ourselves face personal disappointments & hardships, we lose our loved ones, we lose our jobs, we lose our health…ultimately we begin to lose hope. i’ve been in the stocks before and so have you. and chances are we’ll find ourselves back in them again because this temporary world in which we live is one full of sin.
this is where joy becomes an action, a choice, a lifestyle. back in the prison of Philippi, from the dark & rancid inner cell, singing voices fill the air. Paul & Silas are worshiping their Lord with great joy despite their circumstances, despite the stocks life has placed them in.
oh, how i long to be more like Paul & Silas. i have come no where remotely close to suffering the injustices of Paul & Silas and yet i dare to throw pity-parties for myself, to complain and to lash-out at others when life doesn’t go my way. i most definitely do not sing.
and still i am forever & fiercely loved by my Savior who suffered the greatest injustice, death on the cross, for me. it was in the same sacrificial death of their Savior Jesus Christ that Paul & Silas found great joy amidst their suffering. they chose to sing and live lives overflowing with joy because they knew the source from which true joy comes.
i want to be like Paul & Silas. i want to live with great joy. do you?
“The ankles feel no pain in the stocks when the heart is in heaven” ~Tertullian, 2nd century Christian apologist.