So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:31-33)
When we perceive that we have the things that we need, these words from Matthew are easy. It is “those people,” the “pagans” who are running around chasing after things. Certainly not us! But what happens when things we feel that we need are missing? Recently, while looking for another book, I came across Dr. Angella Son’s Spirituality of Joy: Moving Beyond Dread and Duties (Jeyoung Communications 2013). The title caught my eye. Beyond that, Dr. Son advocates that joy is not a lesser spiritual gift, but at the very heart of what God dreams for us. It is the ultimate expression of being in relationship with God. Jesus commands us, “Do not worry!” It is not as though we are never sad, and don’t experience pain, or grief, frustration or loneliness. There are plenty of these to go around. Indeed, we live in an era of pandemic loneliness and sorrow: beyond the pandemics of COVID-19, racial injustice, and structural oppression. It is that true joy transcends these experiences and connects us with the Holy in spite of the burdens of life and the world. Even in the midst of the burdens and trials of life, the invitation into Christian life is an invitation into abundant life. It is an invitation to live joyfully. Perhaps it is even this joy in being in relationship with God that energizes our work to bring healing, wholeness, and justice into an ailing, broken and unjust world.
It can be hard to claim this joy when there is so much bad news. Dr. Son suggests, and I agree, that we can intentionally develop a disposition of joy. She suggests that we seek “joyfinders,” that is people who can nurture our own joy with their assurance of meaning and purpose in life. Let us be the people whose very lives sing, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!” Let us be people who find joy in watching a butterfly alight on a flower, in the smile of an infant, in the smell of rain, in the wonder and stillness of a starry night, in the small victory over a difficult task or the smile of a stranger.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.