The joy of the Lord

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

(Psalm 146. 1&2)

Do you ever lose sight of glory? Of just how much you are loved by an eternal, almighty, joyous and wonderful God? Of how amazing it is that we should be noticed, let alone delighted in by the Creator of universe upon universe? I do.. and I know it has happened when I begin to take myself terribly seriously, to feel each and every slight like a major offence, and every failure to love like a death wound. I get distracted from the eternal realities, and instead see only the little things that make up daily life – irritations, the failings of others and my own, the bad weather, poor health, the messiness of living in a fallen world. All these are real too, and some are very serious issues which we rightly struggle to live with.

Nonetheless, when I read the following words earlier this week, they rang in my head like a clarion call, a defiant statement of a crucial truth:

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.” (GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

When I can bring my forgetful soul back from wandering among small troubles, and into the presence of my dear Lord, then I know the deepest satisfaction – in spite of what ails me, what irritates and gives me cause for grief. If I could only carry this awareness with me all the time, keeping this true perspective on life at all times, then perhaps I would be a more faithful, joyful and effective witness to Jesus in his love and saving power!

At this time of year I have snowdrops and hellebores in my garden, producing exquisite blooms which hang their heads down, as if hiding their glory from casual gaze. When I bring them into the house, and can get up close, I am astonished by the detail and beauty they reveal. An unobtrusive rendering of glory to their Creator, not held up for all to see but shyly suspended, a private delight. Like the rest of the natural world, their glorifying of the maker is not a willed thing, it is part of how they grow and flourish. Perhaps, if I could cultivate the attitude of continual praise – of being conscious that I am always in my Lord’s presence, adoring him and being loved – then my life too would become a thing of natural beauty, because at the heart would be this steady pulse of joy.

When I take myself too seriously, I miss the joy of knowing that I am forgiven, that every minute of every day of my life is a gift, and that there is a continual outpouring of goodness and grace into my life from God. When I take myself too seriously, I begin to act and feel as though I have to be perfect in order to be loved and accepted. This is a wicked and dangerous lie, it creeps up on me so subtly, and I long to become more alert to it. It robs me of joy in receiving each new day; in each person whom God has brought into my life; in the outrageous beauty all around me; and above all in the transforming truth of forgiveness in Christ, union with him, and the promise of eternal life.

Here for a little while, we walk in shadows, our ears deaf to the great hymn of joy and mirth which rolls continually through creation, as God rejoices in his making, and pours love out upon us. Just occasionally, we seem to catch glimpses of glory, hear snatches of the eternal ‘Alleluias!’, and we catch our breath, caught up into wonder and awe. When I deliberately cultivate a spirit of praise, counting every grace gift as I find it, then these moments come more often, and my life is more joyful, my strength renewed, as I lose myself in the Lord. When I am more caught up with him than myself, I can laugh at myself, accept my failures with the compassion God shows me, and live in the freedom which is my birthright as the daughter of the King.

May God help us in the coming days to remember that we are but dust, that He requires of us praise, not perfection, and in that joyful awareness to grow strong.

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