I have written before on my surprising discovery that the commands of God are actually doorways to blessedness-like the way that focusing on someone else's interests (Philippians 2:4) sets you free from the dungeon of self-absorption, or how extending love toward an enemy (Matthew 5:43-44) releases you from hate's hold on you.
Today's appreciation is for another command: Be joyful (1 Thessalonians 5:16). For someone like me, whose natural bent is self-flagellation (for sins that are already forgiven), this command has had a remarkably positive and liberating effect. You see, I am a person who needs to be commanded to have joy or else I wouldn't dare. Here is my discussion with the Lord:
"What, Lord! Have joy? After all the terrible things I have done in my life? Not I, Lord! Far be it from me to have joy, Lord! I don't deserve joy. The proper posture for me is a life of utter remorse and regret till the day I die."
But the Lord doesn't find my pushing away of joy to be proper humility. He considers it recalcitrant unbelief. Still, He is tender:
"You don't understand, Andrée. I am giving you permission to have joy. And if that doesn't do it for you, I am giving you a command to have joy!"
I had prayed for joy and was waiting around till the Lord saw fit to grant it. Then I realized that the blockage was not on heaven's end but on my end. Believe it or not, a person can actually suppress the Holy Spirit's normal flow of the fruit of joy deliberately (albeit unawares) and refuse to let it come. Why would a person do that? For any number of reasons.
One is self-protection: It's not safe to go around having joy; it leaves you exposed. You think you need to go around worrying, in order to be in control. You can't let yourself let go of those worries for even one unguarded minute or they'll get you.
Or, you can suppress joy, like me, because you believe you don't deserve to have joy, and it is unseemly for you to. It is dangerous to believe this and tramples Christ underfoot, putting your wisdom above God's.
'Tis the Christmas season. No time like the "season of joy" to start allowing yourself some. Try it out today. Permission granted.