From what do we move? In taking joy in Christ, we move from a focus on ourselves to a focus on him. Our eyes which are by nature turned in come to be fixed on the deity who is outside of us. There is no benefit in continually looking into a finite wasteland in search of happiness. We know ourselves, and only too well. There is no healing spring and no rest for the weary in treading the once, twice, three-times-trod desert. But Jesus, as Robert Murray M'Cheyne put it, 'is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.' In finding him, we find joy.
And this is what we are moving toward: the place where Jesus is. And this place is the Garden of gardens, the new Eden which is more than the old, a city in the midst of a garden, even heaven. We should seek this place above all places. Jonathan Edwards counsels 'be content to pass through all difficulties in the way to heaven... That glorious city of light and love is, as it were, on the top of a high hill or mountain, and there is no way to it but by upward and arduous steps. But though the ascent be difficult, and the way full of trials, still it is worth your while to meet them all for the sake of coming and dwelling in such a glorious city at last. '
Why is heaven such a glorious place? Because it is the dwelling-place of Jesus. In the midst of the garden-city stands the Flower himself. Shining brighter than the sun and more lovely in scent than the world's most perfect rose is Christ. It may be difficult to get to heaven but having eyes fixed on the one who is its most beautiful inhabitant will make joy the door.
But how is it that joy is the door when many difficulties must be passed? Mere endurance of hardship is in itself of no value. Anyone may set their will like steel and endure. It is endurance with joy that makes the trial of value. Joy is the secret ingredient that makes the perfume live; it is the setting agent that seals the memory of the flower in the bottle of the mind. To live in joy fixes the heart on the future rather than the present, just as it turns the eyes away from the self towards Jesus.
There be many that say, Who will show us any good? But the countenance of Jesus, the good above all goods, is the cause and the root of joy. In the face of Jesus we see the face of the Father of all. In his hands we will safely pass the trials set before us and, with joyful laughter, beat down the wicked. And even if we die, we triumph if we have passed to the other side through the door of joy. And we will be able to say, as did John Bunyan's Valiant for Truth, 'My Marks and Scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his Battles who now will be my Rewarder.' As with him, the trumpets will sound for us on the other side where we will at last be embraced by the Holy One upon whom we have been gazing, Jesus Christ, the bud of Mary, the eternally blooming flower in whose presence is the fulness of all our joy.
|Christ enthroned atop the Tree of Jesse|
at All Saints', London Colney