There is a sign at a local church that I pass by regularly that says this: Jesus is right for what is wrong in your life. For whatever reason, I almost always have a negative response to these kinds of church signs. They strike me as theologically naive and simplistic. I instantly think of a number of smart-alecky type responses that I could supply, thus demonstrating my obvious theological acumen and sophistication. Even though if pressed and given the opportunity to explain and qualify sufficiently, I would affirm the message of the sign, my initial reaction to “Jesus is the answer” type signs is almost always negative.
On my run this morning I listened to a devotional from former Regent College professor—and current pastor at First Baptist in Vancouver—Darrell Johnson called “What I Have Learned About Joy Thus Far.” As someone who is, perhaps, overly prone to dwelling on the shadow side of faith, it was a good and welcome reminder for me that following Jesus can and does lead to a joy that transcends circumstances and trends and glands and whatever else tends to dictate and dominate our mental states.
Johnson identified two things that he has come to associate with joy:
- Joy is being “at home” in the world.
- Joy is, borrowing a phrase from Karl Barth, a “defiant nevertheless.”
At home. I think this is what all of us long for—to feel a peace and contentment with where we are and what we are doing and how we are living. To feel like we fit and that we belong. A “defiant nevertheless.” All of us need to maintain the conviction that though there may be plentiful evidence to the contrary, nevertheless the world we are a part of is destined for goodness. That we are destined for goodness and wholeness and peace. That redemption is possible. That, to quote the famous hymn, “tho the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”
Good words to begin a day. And a good antidote to the cynicism that comes so naturally to me. If following Jesus can simultaneously help us be more at home in the world and continue to ground and embolden our “defiant nevertheless,” then Jesus will indeed be right for what is wrong in our lives.