“We speak of the God of Love and the God of Peace – so seldom of the God of Joy. God is the God of joy, and we must drink in the spirit of His joy. And flowers speak of the gladness that is in the heart of God. Flowers are not a necessity – they are just an overflowing of God’s gladness and if we look closely at each, it seems to reveal His joy each in a different way. ‘Thy Face the heart of every flower that blows.’ You can read Him in them. . . God the gladness of my joy. . . the merry heart of the celandines and the pure simple happiness of the primrose and the shout of the daffodils’ golden trumpet. He didn’t promise us ease and comfort – but He did promise joy which we may have in the midst of any weight or heaviness that may be ours to bear” 17 July 1928
These words about joy were penciled faintly in Lilias’s final entry of her journal: 17 July 1928. They were notes for Sunday afternoon Bible readings, based on the carvings on Solomon’s temple, during the lull of the summer when most of the workers took their much-needed breaks. The remaining few gathered around her bed for what would be her last meditations on earth. The next month, 27 August, she would be “Home” for her well-deserved “rest!”
Joy was a common theme woven throughout the pages of her diaries and her life. Friends , testified to the same quoting Lilias: “Oh, we do need a real laugh sometimes, don’t we?” “I wish so-and-so could laugh more, she said of a new worker, “but she’ll shake free. They always do.”
Clearly, she experienced daily all manner of concerns which fairly could be called “joy killers.” Who of us cannot relate to that? There are many things we can identify that taint our daily existence and pollute our joy. If only, we think – if only this person, this illness, this financial pinch, this situation could be altered – then I could be happy.
But the joy of which Lilias spoke was not determined by outward events or circumstances. It was the joy of which Jesus spoke on His way to Calvary when He promised His disciples “a full measure of His joy,” echoing the Psalmist’s declaration, “Your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Psalm 47:7)
Joy stands in sharp contrast to happiness. Happiness tends to be in direct relationship to the good things happening around us: Christmas Day surrounded by family; a long-desired trip; acquisition of a longed for house or car or object; a good report from the doctor. Joy hold firm when all the above fails.
The joy of which Lilias spoke continues even when “happiness” doesn’t happen When the externals which bouyed our spirits no longer hold. This kind of joy – the kind described in Scripture and referred to by Lilias – runs deeper than all external prompts or perks. It is based on the deep and confident assurance of God’s love and work in our lives. That He will be present no matter what! “He didn’t promise us ease and comfort – but He did promise joy which we may have in the midst of any weight or heaviness that may be ours to bear.”
Each of us, no doubt, can think of someone who embodies that kind of joy – in Scripture (Paul!), in life. I was privileged to have that modeled for me by my Mother. She was not, by nature, a bouncy positive person. Her temperament was contemplative even melancholic. Furthermore, her life was no exception in the setbacks or discouragements common to humanity.
And yet, in the very midst of these battles for her soul – the things which by nature and temperament could derail the most positive person – she chose to focus on the small joys amidst the big trials and to see the redeeming element in each. She used the occasion of doubt to remind us (and herself) of God’s faithfulness in the past. Furthermore, during a given struggle she celebrated life, often turning to her tea-tray set with lustreware tea service, bone china plates and cups, silver spoons and tea strainer, and (when in season) a flower in a cut glass vase, inviting us into the comfort of this ceremony. Her legacy, in part, was her example of “living above the circumstance.”
I have all of the above now – her tools of trade – and I also have the “inside story” in her journals: records of hard days as well as glorious. It all rings true: even as she records with heart breaking accuracy the struggles of her everyday life she rejoices in all manner of beauty that surrounds her – nature, family – and, yes, tea time – and gives witness to her confidence that God will not forsake her or hers.
Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas, traditionally has been associated with “light” – manifestation or revelation – and the visit of the wise men who were led by a star to the Christ-child.
May we carry the “light” and “joy” of the Magi beyond any given season of celebration into each day of the year and all that it brings: easy and hard, good and bad. Our emotional barometer need not be determined by circumstances, which change like the weather, but in an unchanging God – who is the gladness of our joy!
As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light,
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
Painting: Diary 1899