…and then there was joy, a fall devotional.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021


Katie Snipes Lancaster

I pray that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of glory,
may give you a spirit of
wisdom and revelation
as you come to know God.
Ephesians 1:17

A Look at Joy
Hope is the music of disciplined joy. It’s the conviction that for Christians, the future is always bigger than the past. It’s the determination that, whatever one’s feelings, circumstances, or fears, God is our destiny, and we are being drawn to him as fragments of iron to a colossal magnet. That’s what the discipline of joy means: hope, community, scrutiny, and living beyond fear.

Twenty years ago I knew a woman called Margaret who had two teenage children. One Friday her daughter didn’t come home from high school. There was no word all weekend. Only a message to another girl in her class saying, “Tell my mom not to worry.” Days turned to weeks, and still no word about her daughter. After six months, there was still nothing. I want you to imagine a time before cell phones and Facebook. There was no reason to suppose her daughter was dead. But no squeak from her. Then Margaret suffered an even more terrible blow. Her 17-year-old son came off the field after a soccer game complaining of chest pains, and there, by the side of the pitch, collapsed and died in front of his team mates. Margaret was alone in the world.

If ever there was a time for the discipline of joy, this was it. Margaret was devastated, but she was not afraid. She continued to check for evidence of her daughter’s whereabouts. She became a girl scout leader and poured her love for her daughter into a community of growth and support. And she kept her daughter’s bedroom immaculate, because she hoped with all her heart her daughter would come back. And one day her daughter did come back, carrying an 18-month old infant boy. She marked her return with the same lack of ceremony and apology as she had marked her departure. She simply moved right back into her old bedroom as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. As a woman like Margaret later said to me, “Kids. They break your arm when they’re little, and when they grow up they break your heart.” But Margaret had no interest in discipline at that moment. All she had in her heart was joy. Margaret showed me what it means to live by the discipline of joy. Hope, community, scrutiny, and living beyond fear.

(Excerpted from Samuel Wells’ essay “The Discipline of Joy” in The Journal for Preachers, Easter 2011)

God, weave wisdom
and revelation
into a garment of hope,
so that we might live
unafraid. Amen.

September 22, 2021

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