The title which C. S. Lewis gave the book that tells the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity is “Surprised by Joy.” This is a wonderful title of a wonderful book written by a wonderful author. 

That said, my concern is that for many Christians the experience of spiritual joy is either too short-lived—limited to a few hours or days following a crisis conversion experience—or too sporadic—much too dependent upon infrequent occurences of happiness-provoking circumstances beyond their control. While the Bible most certainly does teach that the experience of joy is often precipitated by the activity of God in our lives, it also seems to teach that the experience of joy is something that can and should be proactively pursued. Consider, for example, the following passages:  

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) 

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15) 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4) 

Okay, so how do we do this: how do we pursue joy? 

There are no doubt many ways one can engage in this pursuit. In this blog, I’ll focus on just one. 

Since one of my devotional habits is to read through the Book of Psalms each month, this means that every so often I will run across passages like Psalm 90:12 which reads: 

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:12) 

Viewed in its context, the verse (attributed to Moses) seems to be encouraging its readers to recognize how fleeting life is. Verse 10 of the same psalm reads: 

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. (Psalms 90:10) 

Becoming aware of verses such as these—passages that encourage us to recognize how fleeting life is—has had the effect of causing me to begin most days recognizing something very important: “I’ll only have one shot at this day; once it’s gone, it gone for good. How am I going to act? Will I walk in the flesh or strive to be led by the Spirit? Will I approach the day with a fear-orientation in my heart (worried that something horrible might happen) or with a faith-orientation in place (confident that I live in a good God-governed universe). Will I choose to endure this day or to enjoy it instead?” 

For the purpose of this blog, it’s that last  question that’s important. Will we merely endure the few days that make up our lives, or make the quality decision to enjoy them? 

Sadly, I’m tempted to think that Thoreau was right when he wrote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” However, surely, for us Christians, it doesn’t have to be this way, right? Don’t we of all people have a good reason to experience hope rather than despair—a hope for the future that can produce joy in the present (see Rom 15:13)? 

Will we merely endure the few days that make up our lives, or make the quality decision to enjoy them?

Committed to not being a part of the mass of men of which Thoreau spoke, my habit most days is to say to myself: “Since I’m going to live this day only one time, despite my busyness—all the things that really do need to be accomplished—I want to be careful to press some joy into it.”

Admittedly, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes my proactive pursuit of joy get short-circuited by the fact that my faith is still imperfect, and that in this fallen world crud happens—the kind of crud that, frankly, makes rejoicing in the Lord always a difficult thing for an imperfect person like me to do. 

But I don’t allow those bad days to get the best of me. Convinced that the experience of spiritual joy shouldn’t depend completely upon current happiness-provoking circumstances, and that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have inspired the Apostle Paul to encourage his readers to do something impossible, I firmly believe that with the Spirit’s help I can, over time, become a more perpetually praiseful, grateful, joyful Christ-follower. 

Here’s the bottom line: Though my conversion to Christ was indeed a joyful experience, I don’t want to live the rest of my life merely hoping to be occasionally surprised by joy. No, given the brevity of life, I want to learn to live each day insisting upon it. 

How about you?