"I felt awful in church last week. Everyone was singing happy songs to Jesus and I felt lousy. I'm the only one who didn't feel joyful. I'm a rubbish Christian."
No, that's not a quote from me. But I've heard it often enough. This feeling that as followers of Jesus we ought to be joyful and if we are not we are second-rate Christians.
Last year i asked our leadership team to tell me about their awkward Bible texts, the ones that sometimes made them feel worse rather than better. We are going to look at some of them over the next few weeks, starting with texts that tell us to be joyful.
The problem is that when we feel bad, texts like these can make us feel worse. They add a pinch of guilt to our lack of joy.
So here goes ... when the Apostle Paul tells us to do anything, he doesn't expect us to be perfect straight away. He sees our growth as a long term project. Joy is something we work towards, not a gift from God that we unwrap on the first day that we believe. Joy is linked to hope and hope is the outcome of a long process that starts with suffering and perseverance. A process in which the Holy Spirit is deeply involved.
More on Sunday ...