The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Be exceedingly glad

It's how we can express our gratitude and devotion

When we visited Safed, Israel, a few years ago, we were attracted to some delightful, small pictures of Hasidic rebbes (teachers) singing and dancing happily through the streets of that city. They touched a chord in us, these visual depictions of the connection between joy and the spiritual life.

As Christians we believe joy and happiness grow naturally out of being created by God in the divine image and being given the breath of life. Joy is how we can express our gratitude and devotion.

And we aren’t alone. Look around and you’ll see how all creation reflects the delight in being: The flowers give off a fragrance. The trees dance a samba for the breeze. The squirrels perform acrobatics. And the stars twinkle with glee.

One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples was that he wished their “joy may be full.” So why is it so hard for us to be joyful? Is it the pressures of daily life that close in on us from all sides? Is it the suffering we read about in the media or the rampant injustices we see in our communities? Is it the fact that we don’t like ourselves and feel guilty most of the time? Or is it that fear clutches us by the throat every time we think about the future?

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