God Laughing

I recently made a slightly startling discovery about myself.
Of all of the many ways I imagine God, of all of the variety of emotions that I attribute to Him, I don’t ever imagine Him as happy.
I don’t imagine Him laughing or smiling widely. I don’t imagine Him with eyes twinkling or Him speaking with such joy evident in His voice.
I have, in the past, imagined Him as serious, holy and unapproachable. I have imagined Him as gently gazing with love on His people. I have imagined Him fierce with righteous anger. I have imagined Him sad, heart breaking as we disobey. I have imagined Him in full brilliant glory, all around Him bowed low to the ground.
But I have never imagined Him laughing in delight.
Then I heard David Suchet reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. (David Suchet? You know, Hercule Poirot.)
Anyway, I listened to David Suchet read the story of creation and heard such laughter and exhilaration each time God looked at His artistry and said “You’re good!”
I heard the amazement and joy in His voice when He looked at mankind and said “You look like me! You’re perfect.”
I heard the excitement and merriment when He got to tell Abraham, “Guess what?! I will give you so many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you won’t be able to count them any more than you can count the stars in the sky!
Why have I never imagined this before?
Even when I read things like If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! I didn’t imagine the excitement and fun twinkling in our Father’s eyes as He gives gifts to His beloved children.
You know. The same delight that sparkles in your eyes when you give a gift that you chose specially for someone you love.
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Yes, God loves us.
But it is even more than that.
He delights in us. His eyes light up with amazement when He sees how perfectly He made us. He laughs out loud with joy at the miracle of who He created us to be.
Will you believe that?
You, sister, who have been told by the church that you must look a certain way or behave in a particular manner in order to be beautiful or accepted by God, that you can only be defined by marriage or motherhood, see God gazing at you, mouth smiling wide with joy, eyes sparkling with pleasure and satisfaction as He sees your heart and your outward appearance. You are lovely because you are loved by Him.
You, brother, who have been told that you must enjoy certain activities or conduct yourself with a certain demeanor in order to be truly a man or to fulfill God’s purpose for you, hear God laugh loud in utter delight at the way your personality mirrors some aspect of His own, see His arms flung wide in joyful abandon at the sight of you trying to be like your Father. You are admired because you were created by Him.
You, dear one, hear God laughing over you with radiant delight, see Him grinning wide with eyes gleaming, feel His joy wash over you in absolute approval.
You are perfect just as He created you because He loves you.


Art credits: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo; Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Beautiful Law

I think a lot about rules and law these days.
Why? I have a preschooler and a toddler in the house.
To them, law is restrictive, constraining, unpleasant.
As I consider how to teach them to obey, I am, once again, brought up short and shamed by the deep places inside of me.
The deep places that agree with my preschooler and my toddler.
I, too, see rules as unpleasant. I sometimes feel constrained by the laws of God.
angry at the law
I have thought about this before, the idea that living under God’s authority gives me the freedom to be truly myself, to be who God created me to be.
Yet I still disobey. I still think of myself as better than others. I still yell in anger at those I love. I still struggle with wanting to spend all day reading rather than taking care of my responsibilities.
Why is this so difficult? Why do I view God’s laws as restrictive?
I search God’s Words as I am searching my own heart, and I read David’s words in the Psalms:
My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times.
The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long.
When I am honest with myself, my difficulty is that I don’t truly believe God. I don’t believe that His way is better, that obeying Him will bring me happiness.
I continually choose my own way and am always disappointed.
While I contemplate this striving, I hear an interview with Gerald McDermott on my Mars Hill Audio Journal, discussing these very ideas, discussing the beauty of law.
McDermott is discussing Jonathan Edwards’ views on God’s laws when he speaks about the beauty of the Triune God who loves His human creation with deep father love, Who wants us to be able to participate in His Being (which is, in itself, astounding and worthy of much more searching and study and writing!). The way that we do this, the way that we are able to participate in the Being of this Triune God is to live the way that God lives.
The way that we do that? We live the way that God lives when we live by His laws, by His teachings, in His ways.
This turns everything upside down and over around on its head. Are you as astonished as I am?
I can live the way that God lives.
If God has given us His law so that we can live like Him, so that we can participate in His Being, then I can no longer view that law as unpleasant or constraining. God is simply giving us the ways that will bring us the deepest, most lasting sort of happiness. God’s law is beautiful!
God gave them other rules…The rules showed God’s people how to live, and how to be close to Him, and how to be happy. They showed how life worked best. ~ The Jesus Storybook Bible
Teach me, Abba, how to obey. Teach me to believe that Your law is beautiful, that living in Your ways will bring me happiness and will help me to be more fully myself.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.

Pursuing Happiness

Why do I have such a deep longing for happiness?

I desire happiness for myself.

I desire happiness for those I love.

I want my children to be happy, to enjoy life.

Today I saw my brother who is devastated by the loss of his beautiful wife and terrified by the prospect of being a single parent of a one-year old.

I want him to be happy again.

Is this desire wrong? Is it simply that my time and my culture have taught me that happiness is what I should expect and pursue, or is it a deeper longing than that?

I have been taught by many fellow believers that the desire for happiness is either a sinful, selfish desire or that it is really just a longing for heaven, something for the distant future.

Is that truth or is there a deeper reason behind this deep longing and expectation of obtaining happiness on earth?

I begin to search God’s Words, wanting to hear what He has promised.

I remember Jesus’ words:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~ John 10.10

That certainly sounds like He means a full life here on earth.

Jesus also said this:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. ~ John 15.9-12

If we obey, we remain in His love. If we remain in His love, we have Jesus‘ joy in us!

This is a startling idea.

Perhaps part of the trouble is that the word “happy” has come to me
an “fun” or “excitement”.

Perhaps this is why so many in the Church have decided that we should delay happiness until we are with God. “Fun” is not what we have when our world is crumbling around us.

Paul, however, in Philippians 4.4 says:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Always. Not only when I’m having fun, not sometime in the future. Now and always!

That is a much deeper sort of happiness than what most people mean by that word.

Paul also says this in Romans 15:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps this is the key.

Trusting God.

Trusting that He is always good and always love. Trusting that He will do what He promised, that He is here and working even when we can’t see in the dark.

In II Corinthians, Paul talks about the grace that God gave the Macedonians:

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

This, then, is truth.

Joy, happiness, can be present even in the most severe trial, even in the darkness, every moment of every day.

It is a grace, a gift, given to us from God.

All we need to do is ask…and then trust.

Even in the dark.

~ …though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ I Peter 1.6-9

~ To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ~ Jude 1.24-25