When Did We Become So Joyless?

Recently I heard of a mother of a toddler who habitually spends so much time at work that she goes to work early, comes home very late, and sometimes even gets up in the wee morning hours to work. I also heard of another working mom of toddlers who likes taking vacation days to do her own things and to get away from the children instead of spending time with her family. It troubled me to hear of these things.

At the same time, even though it’s seemingly unrelated, it bothered me for days after watching that infamous YouTube video in which the groom changed his Facebook relationship status during the wedding ceremony. I was bothered by another infamous YouTube video where the wedding party danced down the aisle. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was.

Fortunately, lately I discovered an article at MereOrthodoxy.com entitled “Marriage and the Sacredness of Joy” that put these separate things in perspective for me. In it, blogger Matthew Lee wrote, concerning the Facebooking wedding stunt:

… the move reveals our inability to experience and properly express joy. The union of two people -– a union sanctified by God -– is a great good. To be downright personal for a moment, the joy I felt in the moment that my wife said “yes” to me was so utterly transcendent that a joke would have been inconceivable … we laugh at the stunt, but with the sort of shocked, uncomfortable reservation of people who are witnessing something we intuitively grasp as inappropriate -– even if we can’t articulate how or why.

I agree with Lee that we’ve somehow lost the ability to feel and express joy. The joy of the union between a man and a woman should be so great and so pure that the manufacturing of humor with an out-of-place incident would be deemed unnecessary. Along the same lines, I think many parents fail to appreciate the simple joy that our children bring. Somehow we seem to lose the joy in such things, and we tend to have the need for substitutes.

This reminds me of one of my most favorite clips from the movie “American Beauty,” in which the husband asked the wife an important question: “When did you become so joyless?” (starting around 2:15 in the clip below):

Christians are not immune to the loss of joy. I think we especially need to examine whether we’re losing the pure and simple joy of our salvation, and pray the same prayer that King David prayed:

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Psalm 51:12a)

I have a suspicion that sometimes all our struggles with life, our struggles with burnouts, and our struggles with sin, might stem from our inability to completely experience and live out the joy of our salvation.

John MacArthur, in “Joy and Godliness,” listed 14 reasons we might be joyless, and I think that you and I should take heed and reflect on these:

  1. False salvation
  2. Satan and demons
  3. An inadequate understanding of God’s sovereignty
  4. Prayerlessness
  5. Spiritual lows after spiritual highs
  6. A focus on circumstances
  7. Ingratitude
  8. Forgetfulness
  9. Dissatisfaction
  10. Fear of the future
  11. Uncontrolled feelings
  12. Morbid self-analysis
  13. Self-centeredness
  14. Unwillingness to accept forgiveness

Merry Christmas, and may we be reminded that Christmas is not just about the birth of Christ, but also how God reminds us to rejoice in Him. May this Christmas be a time that our joy in the Lord can be revived and restored:

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Mark Galli: How To Have A “Merry” Christmas