The Danger of Joy
Danger. This word and especially the feeling associated with the word bring fear and anxiety to us.
Joy. This word and especially the feeling associated with the word bring happiness and hope to us.
So, what could these words have to do with each other? Is Joy dangerous? Or is there an openness and a vulnerability that Joy reveals? Can our fears and anxieties be cured or addressed by Joy?
There is a scene in the Gospel of John that perfectly frames these questions in light of the ministry of Jesus and his impact on the people that he spent his time with. In John 9, Jesus meets a man who had been blind since his birth. And as Jesus often does when he encounters people who need hope, he provides it; he heals this man, who goes out from this experience with his life completely and utterly changed.
And, if we are good students of history and of the Bible, it shouldn’t surprise us that immediately once this man leaves Jesus, his story is questioned. He is put to the test. His friends, the religious leaders, even his family begin to doubt him and what has happened to him. (Cynicism and skepticism don’t just creep in when we meet Jesus–they rush in!)
And one thing that I particularly note from this story is that the longer the story goes on, it seems that the man who was born blind–his resolve grows. He becomes more and more emphatic. It is possible that his frustration is rising, but I like to think that it is his urgency that is raising. The more questions he receives, the more urgency he wants to convey his experience to those who ask.
So, again, what exactly is happening in this story? What exactly is going on between the topics of Joy and Danger?
I believe that Joy is inherently dangerous because just as Joy can be life-giving and contagious, so too it can be disruptive. Essentially, that is what this story is all about: disruption. And disruption can be either good or bad, but it is rarely welcomed. In the case of this man in this story, his disruption changes his life and allows him a gift that previously was unavailable to him. However, the change is not necessarily only positive. It directly leads to a break or a crack in relationships. It may cause him difficulty in his personal finances (where previously he was able to rely on others for his financial needs, now he will be responsible himself). In the case of the religious leaders, the disruption leads to a worldview that is unacceptable to them. They must fight and reject this way of living from both Jesus and the man born blind.
Joy leads to disruption. It disrupts the patterns we have accepted for our lives when and if they deal in the mundane or boring. It confronts our apathy and calls our attention to life. It begs of us to seek the wellbeing of all of God’s creation and not just our own little kingdoms. Joy is disruptive, and it is for this reason that Joy is dangerous. Dangerous not because we should be afraid of it, but dangerous because it is within our nature to push back and attempt to reject it.
But notice one final note: the end result of the man born blind and his story: “‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped Jesus.”
Where the religious leaders reject this way of being, the man born blind accepts it. And the response of a joyful person is to worship the one in whom we find ultimate Joy.
And so, this week, seek to embrace the disruption that a joyful way of living in following Jesus will bring. Be ready and open to the leading of God’s Spirit to more life and not less of it. And be ready, too, for the cynicism, doubt, and rejection of joy because of all its’ dangers will certainly not be far behind.