The Loss of Joy
Read Genesis chapters 6-9.
Have you ever wondered what his life was like while building the ark?
God had visited him and basically given him the “chicken little” message of all time: The sky is falling (or would be)!
Noah was told that all life would be wiped out in a deluge. The heavens would crack wide, the earth would burst open, and water would come from everywhere and fill everything, obliterating the world that Noah knew. Noah and his family would be saved through an ark.
How do you process that kind of information? We know that Noah did all that God commanded. But what did he feel? How would you feel?
Did Noah try to talk God out of it, as Moses would centuries later? Beg for mercy, for the planet and the people he lived with and knew?
Did he tell people what he was doing and why? Was he a part-time boat builder and part-time prophet/doomsday crier? How dark and terrible was the knowledge he held!
And if the estimations of his age at the time of the building of the ark are correct, he spent 100 years knowing that everything around him would end. The sky was quite literally going to fall. Millions of lives drowned in the waters, but also, all traces of civilization.
Did his joy lose shape as the ark took its own? Each thud of mallet perhaps flattening his joy? The pitch that smothered the ark, making it impervious, effectively sealing off his own heart from those around him?
The mental and emotional toll of this news is nearly impossible to imagine. But it is difficult to picture that Noah’s life was full of joy, even with the news that he and his family were going to be spared.
But the revelation was just a portion of the traumatic experience that would mark his life. The actual event was still to come.
Being ushered into the ark, the hand of God closing them in, hearing the rain and waters come. Everything outside was being decimated. Everything. People and animals were dying, buildings and homes inundated and washed away. God was wiping the earth clean.
As if these things were not enough to crush any sense of joy, there was the personal aftermath.
Finally, when Noah and his family stepped out of the ark, the sole inhabitants of the new world, it didn’t take long to realize that the problems of the old world could not be washed away with water. It would take something stronger.
Intentionally or not, Noah got drunk, and his son, Ham, did something that deeply violated his dignity. In a fit of humiliation-fueled rage, Noah cursed his own family members, his own grandchildren! Nearly apoplectic with anger, Noah revealed that the violence that had brought the judgment of God’s flood was still ripe and roiling in the human heart.
We’re rarely given a glimpse inside the hearts and minds of people in the Bible, and Noah is no exception. But given all he had to endure, we can reasonably guess his demeanour. It’s hard to imagine Noah as a joy-filled person.
This broken world can steal our joy in many ways. Noah’s heart and mind were robbed of joy over the destruction of the world around him and the collapse of his own family. He needed a rescue that would bring true, lasting joy. That is a rescue we all need.
Joy Comes with Jesus
Read Mark 2:1-12.
A paralyzed man. A group of friends
Expectation and anticipation often run hand in glove. It’s impossible that the man being lowered before Jesus and the crowd wasn’t brimming with both.
He had perhaps already imaged what his days would be like when Jesus gave him his limbs back. His excitement at his new life to come filled him with joy. Until Jesus spoke.
He had just uttered words the paralyzed man could not comprehend. He knew the words. Knew what they meant. But in the given circumstances, they were beyond confusing. As far as the man on the mat was concerned, they may as well have been spoken in a different language.
“Your sins are forgiven.”
We could theologize and say that Jesus was not giving the man what he wanted; rather, it was what he needed.
But reducing the man to a mere theological object lesson removes his essential humanity. We need to allow him to respond, if only in our imaginations, as a hopeful human with deep and pressing desires, and day-to-day practical concerns.
We also shouldn’t inflate him to a spiritual superhero, imagining he was instantly thrilled with the larger miracle of forgiveness.
His friends had carried him to the house and destroyed private property to get him in front of the one who could give him his legs back. He was there for a physical miracle. He needed spiritual restoration—we all do—but he wanted, expected, physical restoration.
But Jesus didn’t just forgive his sins and bid him a good day. He did give him back his legs. In the end, to prove that He could do both, He told the man to take his mat and walk home.
We’re simply told that the paralyzed man did. But imagine his response after the disappointment that must have come from being told first that his sins were forgiven instead of his legs being restored. Imagine him testing the strength of his made-new limbs. Finding the strength not simply to stand, but strong enough to carry his former prison.
Imagine his friends’ response as they see their friend walk out through the crowd. Imagine their reunion outside in the street. Can you hear it? Can you see it? The overwhelming joy and happiness!
As far as we know, this man walks out of the house and out of the gospel story. But like Noah, his story goes on beyond what we are told.
It is safe to assume this man, restored as he was, had an undercurrent of joy in his life after he met Jesus. Every day he woke up and walked out of his home, he had reason to rejoice. He was made whole again. Do you ever take your legs for granted again when you are given them back? Do walking and running become boring daily activities?
Doubtful. Each step was a reminder of the new life the miracle worker gave him.
But each step was also a reminder of Jesus’s other pronouncement: Your sins are forgiven. This man was made new outside and inside, made whole.
Jesus came and offered new life. He still offers new life, the chance to be made whole. It may not happen in the timing we expect, but whole is how we were meant to live, and this wholeness pulls joy in its wake.
Jesus brings joy through restoration to this wholeness.
This is the deeper joy that Noah missed and that we all need.
Men, joy may not be high on our radar for pursuit. It might not seem masculine or rugged and manly. Our mental image of a joyful person may not match how we want to be seen.
But joy isn’t something we cultivate. It is the result of something.
It is the result of Jesus working in our lives to restore us to wholeness. When He works in our lives and restores us to the true human experience, joy comes with it.
In the third week of Advent, we celebrate the joy of Jesus. Joy comes with the person and work of Jesus. Allow Jesus to make you whole. Experience the joy that comes from feeling His work in your life.