“For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
I think statements such as “I don’t want to be in a relationship right now; I want to focus on the Lord,” to be amusing. I hear this from high school and college students a lot, and I’m certain I said it as well. Certainly there is nobility and godliness in a heart that seeks after the Lord and is willing to put all things aside to do so, and I believe that there are times when certain “romantic” relationships should be put on hold. There is, however, a huge something lurking underneath this statement. This “something” is a belief that one cannot focus on the Lord through a relationship. At the back of this statement is a belief that the Lord must be sought for apart from His creation. There is wisdom in this, but there is also misconception.
The Psalmist is ecstatic. He is overflowing and overwhelmed with absolute joy in such a way that he is reduced to singing. But a closer look reveals that he isn’t singing for some amorphous sense of who God is. No. He is overwhelmed at God through very concrete means; He is worshipping through God’s works. He surveys the wonders of creation, and without mistaking them for the Creator, he praises his Maker through created things.
I think there is an unspoken misconception floating around. I hear it at least in my own heart. This misconception sounds like, “It’s wrong to enjoy this movie too much,” or “It’s wrong to be enraptured over this meal.” With this theology of joy, we separate God from His creation in such a way as to make creation absolutely devoid of any revelation of God. Now, it is good to separate God from His creation in a way that maintains the distinction that He is the Creator and all other things are the created. It is absolutely necessary that we don’t mistake our morning coffee for the Almighty God. I don’t want to find any of us bowing down to our cup of Folgers in the morning. Still, if words such as Psalm 92 are correct, creation reveals to us our God in magnificent ways. Creation is a medium in which God’s reflection penetrates our hearts and causes us to sing. To forget this is to relegate worship to Sunday mornings or special times of devotion and meditation. But let’s move towards a deeper joy.
Can we not worship through our morning coffee as we enjoy its simplicity and taste? It is a reflection of God! Can we not worship through relationships? They are a reflection of God! Can we not enjoy God through a magnificent meal or a wonderful sunset? They are reflections of Him. What about a conversation with a friend? Certainly this is a reflection of Him. In this way, a good movie with a loved one, a refreshing dip in the ocean, and the reading of a good book become moments of God-like delight as we experience a reflection of Him through what He has created. As winter wanes in the great city of Philadelphia, temperatures are rising (slowly, but surely), and with this comes the scent of spring and warm relief. I can enjoy God through this.
In our churches we hear that our life is meant to be worship, but sometimes we have no idea how to make sense of that. We cringe at the thought of life as worship, because our notion of worship may be confined to a once-a-week, 60 minute segment of sub-par music and boring message. Worshipful music should be good music, and preaching should never be boring. Still, we wonder how to connect a theology of life-worship to our everyday life. Well, this a start. Let’s let every good thing we enjoy carry us past itself, through itself, into the presence of God Himself. Here, worship will become as normal as a vanilla coke or the laugh of a friend. Worship will be as easy as a glance at budding flowers or a deep breath of fresh air. The hard thing is, of course, to keep going past and through the creation. We are tempted to make created things creators. But once we make the connection, perhaps our thoughts will be turned more and more to Him. In a deeper theology of joy, our thoughts will be turned more and more to the joy flowing from Christ unto His people through His creation, so that we may join with that creation in making much of Him.