When you wonder at the joy you feel


After months of struggle to let go, the deep joy I felt after finally giving up my medical license surprised me. At first I wondered whether it was okay to enjoy so much what God was doing in me. Was it somehow self-centered to feel this much joy over something being done in me?

But then, in question form, the truth began to creep in. Where was the joy coming from? It seemed too big, too deep to just be mine. And I sensed with awe that Someone else was enjoying it with me. . . maybe even more than I.

And now I’m starting to realize that this joy which feels too deep to be just mine really isn’t. Jesus is feeling the joy with me. . . and in me. . . and is letting me feel His joy and experience it at once as His and as my own.

And I think this is what Jesus meant. “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) It’s not just his kind of joy that He wants to give us. It’s actually His joy. And He doesn’t give it like we give a gift to another, the gift leaving the hand of one and being received by another.  It’s much closer, more intimate, than that. He still has all of His own joy. He gives it by living His joy within us, opening His heart to us and letting us feel His very own joy. He – God! – opens His heart to us, within us, enough that we can feel his joy with Him. Enough that His joy becomes ours too.

And it’s not just His joy. It’s the same with His peace. “My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives.” (John 14:27) I used to think this meant that He doesn’t give us the same kind of peace that the world gives. And that’s true too. It’s lasting, not temporary, rooted in Him, not in the transience of circumstances. But now I think  the statement, “I do not give as the world gives,” is more about the way He gives than the kind of peace He gives. As with joy, His peace is not an external gift, not something passed from one to another. It’s His peace, not just His kind of peace but His very own personal peace that He gives, and that can only be given by living within us and opening His heart to us and in some mysterious way letting our hearts become one, allowing us, inviting us to experience His peace both as His and as our own.

How does this mystery occur? And why? Why on earth would the Creator of the universe choose to open His heart to us in this intimate way? I don’t have any idea. It is truly a mystery. But this much I know. Between these two pictures of Jesus living His very own peace and His very own joy within us are fourteen verses about becoming one. And in the midst of that, this startling statement: “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.” (John 15:9, New Jerusalem Bible and The Message) And this is the bottom line as to how we enter this mystery. Just receive it.  Make yourself at home in it. Even if you don’t understand it.  As incredible as it is, Jesus loves each of us the same way His Father loves Him. Jesus wants to open His heart to us, to let us feel, with Him, His very own joy and peace and love. He waits only for us to open our hearts to Him.