One of the most easily identifiable characteristics of Christian happiness is attractiveness. . . . Christian happiness . . . is tremendously attractive and very contagious.
—Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God[i]
“Dad, you’re weird,” Hannah declared one morning as I waited for the toaster to eject my English muffin.
I grinned. “Why do you say I’m weird?” I asked, sipping my coffee.
“Because you’re a writer.”
Yes, I am a writer, but first and foremost I’m a child of God walking to the beat of a heavenly drum. For years I stifled my bongos under a blanket of conformity, smiling nonetheless, because, as the eyes are the windows to the soul, a smile is the window that opens to hope. And now that the blanket has been stripped off, my drum beats loud and strong as I walk the path marked out for me through the jungle of status quo.
Mother Teresa once said, “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”[ii] A smile can change your demeanor in an instant if you take the time to consider the possibilities painted in the brightness of the offering. As I walk through life, I pray my smile touches people’s lives in some small way, with some small hope, with some small encouragement.
“Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening,” said Greta Garbo.[iii] In so many ways, I wear this smile as a badge of defiance against an enemy who’d like nothing better than to steal it away and replace it with a scowl of defeat.
The Bible is filled with examples of people whose lives brought joy to others. In the book of Esther, King Xerxes, king of Persia and Media, honored Mordecai, Queen Esther’s cousin, because Mordecai exposed a plot to kill him. And because Esther revealed she was, in fact, a Jew, destined to be annihilated under the “vile” Haman’s orders, King Xerxes ordered Haman impaled, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and gave Mordecai authority to write a decree allowing the Jews to avenge themselves against their enemies.
Because the edict authorized God’s people to stand their ground, they ended up killing over 75,000 of their enemy. Mordecai then established the celebration of Purim “as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration” (Esther 9:22 NIV®).
In his gospel, Luke recounts the angel Gabriel’s announcement of John the Baptist’s birth and ministry to Zechariah, John’s father. “He will be a joy and delight to you,” Gabriel told the old priest, “and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:14-17 NIV®).
John the Baptist became a joy and a delight to Zechariah, but more importantly, he became a joy and a delight to those who paid attention to his message, repented, and turned back to God. But why did Gabriel tell Zechariah to keep John away from wine or other fermented drink? Because, as the last prophet before Jesus’ coming, God had filled him with the Holy Spirit in the womb, and God wanted to ensure folks didn’t confuse John’s intense joy for inebriation. He was drunk with the Holy Spirit! And he became a joy for others as he pointed his followers to the Messiah.
Earlier, I told the story of my friend, Jason Hoffman, and how a woman approached him at work and asked him, “What’s the source of your joy?”
Jason pointed up and responded “It’s all Him.” Jason displays his joy in not only his beaming countenance and gentle character, but in his willingness to step out and serve others. He’s a true model for what it means to be a joy-filled Christian walking in the footsteps of Jesus, our ultimate Joy. Another inspiring person I know who’s wrapped in a mantle of gladness is Amy Copeland, Preschool and Special Needs Director at New River Fellowship.
Talk about someone who radiates joy! The woman displays it as brightly as the moon wears the sun’s reflection. The moment she walks into a room dressed in her almost perpetual smile, you can’t help but feel lighter and happier. “I think of joy as a deep feeling of happiness and contentment,” Amy told me, “knowing that no matter what happens, I am going to be okay, because God has me in His hand and He is in control.”
[i] Kelly, Matthew. A Call to Joy: Living in the Presence of God. Beacon Publishing, 1999. 134.
[ii] “Mother Teresa Quotes.” BrainyQuote. n.d. 12 June 2014. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html.
[iii] “Greta Garbo > Quotes > Quotable Quote.” goodreads.com. 2014. Good Reads Inc. 19 June 2014. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/252365-anyone-who-has-a-continuous-smile-on-his-face-conceals
Copyright © 2014 by David C. Hughes