Most folks love to see children playing and laughing, laughing at, . . . well, . . . just about anything! It's great, isn't it? Warren Wiersbe writes in True Worship that children begin with a great capacity for wonder; they can stare for hours at an ant hill! Sadly, they lose 90% of that capacity by the time they're five! That's depressing! What happens that we grow so sour, so dour? Well, I think the pundits would offer, . . . "Life happens." Yep, we get a little older and we suffer sin in it's many forms along with rejection, trials, failure and death. And this hangs over us. Now everyone faces these things. And the question must be broached, "Do we have to outgrow joy?"
First, I'd affirm that we have to face up to the fact that we live in a fallen world. Sin abounds and it will affect all of us. That alone will dampen the most optimistic human being! And we cannot turn a deaf ear to sin's sound nor a blind eye to it's presence. But those without Christ will hardly know of any positive spin they might put on such troubles. Let me give you this poem which I heard on "The Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor. It's touching for it's reality, and good poetry, but it could also be a bit depressing.
The Best Year of Her Life
When my two-year-old daughter
sees someone come through the door
whom she loves, and hasn't seen for a while,
and has been anticipating
she literally shrieks with joy.
I have to go into the other room
so that no one will notice the tears in my eyes.
Later, after my daughter has gone to bed,
I say to my wife,
"She will never be this happy again,"
and my wife gets angry and snaps,
"Don't you dare communicate your negativism to her!"
And, of course, I won't, if I can possibly help it,
and of course I fully expect her
to have much joy in her life,
and, of course, I hope to be able
to contribute to that joy —
I hope, in other words, that she'll always
be happy to see me come through the door—
but why kid ourselves — she, like every child,
has a life of great suffering ahead of her,
and while joy will not go out of her life,
she will one of these days cease to actually,
literally, jump and shriek for joy.
"The Best Year of Her Life" by Gerald Locklin, from Men of Our Time. © University of Georgia Press, 1992.
Second, something CAN be done about this problem! My pastor's heart yearns to say to that young girl, you may grow older, but you don't have to become cynical or jaded by sin! The prophet Jeremiah querried, "Is there no balm [cure] in Gilead? Is there no Physician there?" (Jer. 8:22). Oh, there most certainly is a Physician. [Jesus] said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12). Jesus summarized it quite well when he said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Indeed, the devil only desires to steal joy and true happiness from every soul on earth! That's all. But Jesus came in order to grant life (by faith) to all who call upon him. And notice, that's abundant life!
So, do we have to cease literally shrieking for joy? Well, perhaps we won't shriek like that of an immature, innocent child. But we can after all the worst has been done around us (and even to a great degree done within us) still find abundant joy. How? Because Jesus knew quite well that he was coming NOT to save already whole people, but those who's lives had fallen apart. No, we don't kid ourselves, such joy is for those who's hope is grounded in the Lord alone. And from him we will never fail to be blessed and find joy.