Joy as Resistance
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4,7
Alice Walker once wrote that “Resistance is the secret of joy!” I believe that. I also believe that it’s inversely true as well: Joy can be resistance to the forces that would destroy us.
As a young activist I believed that it was irresponsible to be joyful while injustice flourished in the world. Happiness felt almost sinful while others suffered.
Later in life I learned that it wasn’t my responsibility to fix everything. And I also learned a lot about joy. I learned that though this world will always be imperfect there are often moments of extraordinary beauty and grace that require nothing less than our abundant joy.
Paul wrote to the church in Philippi and told them to “rejoice.” It’s worth noting that he was likely writing his letter from a jail cell. If anyone had reason not to be joyful, it was Paul. And yet, even in the midst of injustice, he found reasons for joy, and evidence of God’s peace.
If that isn’t resistance to the forces of evil in this world, I don’t know what is.
Alice Walker wrote in The Color Purple, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” My guess is it also pisses God off when we don’t notice the goodness in our lives, and give God our joy.
God, help me to be a joyful resister of whatever would distract me from the signs of your goodness.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter (New Hampshire) and the author most recently of Courageous Faith: How to Rise and Resist in a Time of Fear.