Updated: Mar 29, 2020
It seems like everybody is angry today. There are plenty of things in the world that we should be angry or sad about, such as school shootings, terrorists, politicians that don’t do anything, and racist systems that make the world unfair.
The stress and seriousness of our world have left me raw. My raw emotions bristle at every situation. Because of that stress, I’ve gotten angry at any perceived slight thrown my way. My raw emotions respond with pain, frustration, and anger, even when it’s not warranted. And my sense of self -importance has left little room for grace for others.
The other day, I got unreasonably angry at a colleague during a meeting. My colleague hadn’t done anything wrong. Their comments were probably just quick, and at worst, they might have been insensitive, but nothing that should have elicited anger. And yet, I could feel my anger boiling beneath the service. Luckily, the meeting ended before I said anything I regretted. I went to bed, fuming.
The next morning, my daughter woke up giggling. As our little family of three giggled in bed, I thought how perfect. At that moment, I felt unimportant. I couldn’t feel the weight of the world sitting on my shoulders. The laughter seemed to be a salve for my soul, almost like each giggle healed, my frayed my nerves.
That morning gave me the gift of not taking myself too seriously. “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” The devil cannot bear to be made fun of because he takes himself so seriously! He bristles at laughter. When we start to take ourselves too seriously, we begin to imitate that characteristic. Believing that we are important, leaves no room for anything else. And so we get angry when people and God start encroaching in our space.
But when we allow ourselves to laugh, to take a step back, and not to take ourselves so seriously, we start to give the world back to Jesus. We trust him to take care of the world so that we can choose joy.
I realize how naïve I sound, especially as a middle-class white woman. Many problems that cannot be pushed aside with laughter. I can’t imagine the stress that the fear of deportation creates in many of our undocumented neighbors. The evilness of racism hangs like a cloud over many of our brothers and sisters.
In the face of such evil, choosing joy is not a trivial choice. It’s instead a defiant act. To choose to let our joy pierce the depressing darkness is to say to evil, that this is not its ground to take.
And joy is a choice. We can choose to delight. Delight in the world around us. Delight in what Jesus has given us. Delight in who we are as God’s children, blessedly unimportant but made important by his love for us.
Joy allows us to tell evil; I will not partake in your version of the world. It allows us to say; I choose to believe in God’s reality, where even the evilest things are already defeated. Choosing joy is not trivial but essential to pushing back the destructive and divisive nature of evil.
When we choose joy, we are choosing to believe in God. Because according to the Blessed Columbia Marmion, “Joy is the echo of God’s life in us.” Our joy shines a light into all the evil, especially when we choose joy when the rest of the world is choosing to hate. So today, I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to turn off my source of news, I’m going to ignore the latest update on the various issues that I honestly care deeply about, I’m going to give my emotions a rest, and I’m going to choose joy. I’m going to choose to see the world the way it is – a world where the goodness of God’s kingdom is piercing through - and I’m going to laugh and celebrate with God over that truth. The world and its problems will be there tomorrow. But if I choose joy today, I can face them with God tomorrow.