July in Texas is marked by backyard bar-b-ques, busy splash-parks, and flags aplenty. A car dealership near us just raised four enormous flags that can be seen for miles around, and I was taken aback the first time I caught a glimpse of the red-white-and-blue billowing large against the summer sky. A flag makes a bold statement!
Flashback to me as a care-free little girl happily waving my arms and singing with all my heart, “Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart, for the king is in residence there.” In my childhood, I had no trouble understanding that the kingship of Jesus in my heart would well up into a joy that overflows and attracts others to his kingdom. In fact, this was the truth I witnessed time and time again. My Catholic missionary family was dedicated to bringing the good news to those in need, and I saw so many people’s lives changed because of Jesus! I saw the sick healed, and the broken made whole. We rejoiced over and over at the transformative goodness of God’s presence in a heart, a marriage, a home. How would I not, then, equate joy with the presence of Jesus?
In the harder, more recent years of my life, however, I sometimes miss the clear connection between God’s presence and joy. I am committed to keeping him always king of my heart, but my king does not prevent my heart from being broken. There is tremendous comfort sitting in the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, yet many a time it’s through tears and lamentation that I have welcomed him in. How can I hoist the flag of joy when there’s great pain in my castle?
Is joy truly the flag, the bold sign, of the Christian?
I believe it is. Maybe that’s why we need to be child-like. With grown-up anxiety, we might fail to see that the king is all good and his presence is transformative. Maybe, too, we need to understand the Holy Spirit’s joy is not always an ear-to-ear smile. The joy of the Christian remains when the king reigns, though he is a suffering king, and we, his subjects, often suffer with him. Yet joy is the flag flown high above the circumstances, crises, and crushing moments of life. We can lament even under the flag. How? We can give our raw, honest hurts to the king of kings, and then lift our eyes to him who is above it all, trusting that he only does what is best for us. Trusting. Believing. Abiding. Thanking. From lament to thanksgiving, and everywhere in between, is joy.
Lord, help me to trust so fiercely in you that nothing can steal my joy. You know me best. You love me best, and you only want what is best for me. You are my king.