“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11)
My husband loves the outdoors. Put him in a wilderness area with trees, rock formations, a flowing stream, or a fresh water lake, and you’ve put him in paradise. Standing next to a waterfall with a swimming hole below, he becomes a giddy boy. Silly even. Completely full of joy.
What brings you joy? What makes you giddy? What causes you to transcend into an alternative existence, an existence of joy? One day, for Micah and me, it was a cucumber. Just a simple cucumber that became a cigar, a mustache, a long, pointy nose. Truth be told, it’s Micah that’s my joy. He’s my joy bringer.
Jesus wants joy for us, but not just any joy, complete joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” But what is complete joy? Does anyone really know joy like this? Or does joy fade?
We come down from the mountain top. We’re sitting in traffic again. And children who laugh over cucumbers also need time outs and get the stomach flu. Surely Jesus can’t mean that our joy never, ever ends. How could we possibly remain in a perpetual state of joy?
I recently read that our lives are like train tracks with parallel truths running right alongside one another. On one rail, we have the joyful things, the blessings, all of the good that causes our cup to overflow with gratitude. But simultaneously, co-existing with all this good, there runs another rail. It’s the rail of the bad. It’s the things that bring us sadness, sorrow, pain, and frustration.
Even if we aren’t currently experiencing these things, someone around us is. You don’t have to wander far to bump into someone’s hurt. In a broken world, hurt screams all around us. And so we find these two truths running parallel throughout our lives. While there’s much reason for joy, there’s much reason for sorrow.
So, again I ask, how can our joy be made complete?
Pondering this question, I look back at the preceding words of Jesus, “Remain in my love.” We remain in His love so that, we may know His joy, His complete joy. And so I deduce, I will know full joy when I know full love. Uninhibited, complete love. As Paul says…
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (2 Corinthians 13:12)
It seems that Jesus is giving us somewhat of a formula. The more we experience His love, the more we’ll experience His joy. The more we track with His love, the more we’ll track with His joy.
But the problem is the other track, the one with all the bad. That darn thing keeps running alongside the good track, the joyful track. And so we know in part. We experience in part. But the whole of this love, this joy, is not fully known to us. Not while we still sit with the bad.
The bad in this world. The bad in us.
But wait. Hang on. Because there’s hope. There’s hope for a follower of Jesus living life on both rails. Because these rails aren’t for nothing. We’re on rails for a reason. We’re on rails because we’re headed somewhere.
These tracks lead to a completely different destination. In this life, we yearn to experience the pure, unadulterated love of Christ and all of the good that flows from His heart.
Blessings like mountain hikes and belly laughs and silly cucumbers that become a goofy mustache. But running right alongside these are the days of frustration, the nights of tears, the pain that’s no further than the front page of the newspaper. Both co-exist…for now. But we’re headed somewhere else.
And when we get there, what now seems like the exception will one day be the rule. Those moments that are few and far between, when you are most fully yourself, experiencing uninhibited joy, becoming a giddy little kid again. Those will be the rule. These train tracks we’re riding will one day lead to complete joy. When we’ll really, truly, fully know His love.
Without insecurities. Without doubts. Without moodiness or shame or regret. Without battling the sin within or the onslaught of trials from without. Everything that seems so normal to us now will no longer be. Can we even fathom such an existence? Can we even ponder such complete joy? Well, it will look something like this…
And exactly like this…
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
No more double rails. One rail. One way. One existence where we will forever remain in his uninhibited love. And the exception becomes the rule. We’ll never come down from the mountain. Our cup will always overflow.
We’re headed there. That’s the hope that doesn’t disappoint. These double rails aren’t for nothing. They will one day take us home. Home to complete joy.
What about you?
Do you think much about where we’re headed, the hope of a day of complete joy?
How can you be a joy bringer in the life of someone today?