What does true joy look like?
This is the question Gathering participants have been asked to consider on this first day of the Gathering.
At the opening Mass Event on Saturday night, our trusted voice Pastor Matt Popovits asked us to consider the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is emotional and situational. Joy is deeper, connected; it’s anchored to something unshakable—the finished work of Christ alone. “For followers of Jesus Christ, true joy stays,” he said. The source of joy never leaves us.
Pastor Matt pointed us to Paul, who, when he looked at the cross saw joy. He saw the one thing that fixed all the bad things. “Christ alone is enough for you and I to have joy when life gets crazy too,” he said.
The main speaker at the Mass Event was Shanna Decker, who was diagnosed with a fast-growing, rare form of bone cancer at the age of seven. Through her battle with cancer, treatment, and all that has followed, she said that it was hard to not feel alone and to wonder where joy was. She pointed us to Psalm 28:7: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” “The Lord is my strength and my shield,” Shanna said, “and then I respond with joy.” We cannot get joy apart from Jesus. When we get joy the most is when we know that it only comes in Christ alone. True joy stays. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, my joy was in the Lord. Joy removed my fear of death. When I had my leg amputated, my joy was in Christ. No matter what I had done before or what I would do in my future, He would be right there. He accepted me and He made me whole,” she said.
— LCMS Youth Gathering (@LCMSNYG) July 17, 2016
At Sunday morning’s Bible study, we dug even deeper into what true joy is, while looking at the book of Philippians. Often called the “letter of joy,” Philippians is full of joy. We learned that joy is not something that is pursued, and also not something that changes. Joy turns up in the most surprising places. Joy is given and unchanging. Jesus gives joy to places that shouldn’t have it. He gives joy in our sorrows. He gives joy to sinners. He gives joy now…and not yet. Our salvation is now–God saves us now and we have forgiveness now. But we also await the day of Christ’s of return, when all things will be made right.
As we left Bible study to begin the rest of the day’s activities, we were challenged to read the entire book of Philippians every day of the Gathering. We invite you reading this to join us in that challenge!
Photo credit: Nathan Harmann, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team