Monday, September 12, 2011

Can there be true joy in this life?

Joy cannot be true joy unless there is certainty in its eternality. If one is experiencing a feeling of joy (pleasure in happiness), but there is knowledge of its end, the joy cannot be pure. For the rational man, the fear of joy’s end is enough to tarnish it at least to some extent. I contend that true and perfect joy can only be had in the next life, when God’s elect will see Him as He is and will behold Him with the certainty of remaining with God forever. True and perfect joy can only come via the Presence of the One in which all the springs of felicity find their source. 
We see this biblically with Adam and Eve. The kind of joy that they experienced in the Garden, and there was a kind of joy for they were intimate enough with God that they knew the sound of His walking the Garden, was tainted by their lack of confidence in remaining there forever. Their fears were realized and they were cast out of the Garden, relying on grace for God to restore us to His presence again. But the joy that believers now have is greater than the joy of the first man and woman before the Fall because we have assurance that we can never be separated from the Father (see Romans 8:35). 
We even see this in human relationships. Friendship is never without fear. No matter how dedicated the friend may be, there is always uncertainty in the minds of the two individuals. I may know of my own faithfulness toward my friend, but I can never be absolutely certain about his/her commitment to me. I cannot truly know the heart of another person. Whenever the variable of human companionship is added to the equation, uncertainty is inevitable. This is the wretchedness of the human situation. We recognize relationships as good insofar as they mirror the Divine relationship. 
The type of marriage begun in this life finds its fulfillment in the next life. The sort of imperfect friendship begun in this world meets its completion in eternity. The taste of joy that some may experience on this side of Heaven is purified and perfected on the other side. Our complete, fulfilled, pure, and perfected selves will emerge when we are with God and they will be so because they will never cease or falter. 
The reason we can look forward to future joy is because Jesus came. As Ed Clowney so eloquently put it: Jesus sat amid the joy, sipping the coming sorrow, so that we could sit amid the sorrow sipping the coming joy. Jesus endured the injustice and corruption of this life, "despising [its] shame," by looking forward to the "joy that was set before Him" (see Hebrews 12:2). So also should we endure "this light momentary affliction" looking forward to "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (see 2 Corinthians 4:17). 

If God, in sheer grace and mercy, commonly graces all men with sensations of pleasure and beauty, especially to fallen and condemned men on this earth, how much greater is the pleasure and beauty that God has reserved in heaven for those who are His children, and new capacities by which to enjoy them! (see 1 Corinthians 2:9)
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. 
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6-9

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