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  • Writer's pictureThe Rev. Charles Smith

How to get joy back

Updated: Feb 2, 2021

I love this simple, energetic gospel acclimation we would sing at Church of the Holy Apostles Anglican/Roman Catholic many Sundays in Virginia Beach. It was a favorite of Fr. Jim Parke a kind priest in his sixties who has since gone to glory. Whenever Cliff, our organist, would crank up the simulated marimba two things would happen immediately: some people would nearly fall over from the force of their eyes rolling back into their heads and others would begin to subtly smile and dance. By the time it was time to read the gospel everyone smiling and dancing and singing, if only subtly.

There is something about the joy, energy, and honest praise of God in that piece of music that is more infectious then Covid-19. As we grow up it becomes harder and harder to experience that unbridled joy. As we grow up we learn to replace joy with worry. As we become teenagers we worry if she or he likes me or not. As we grow up and prepare to graduate from high school we learn to worry about getting into college. Once we enter college we learn to worry about getting a good job. Once we get into a job we learn to start worrying about our families and retirement.

Somehow over time we get so good at worrying that it becomes harder and harder to remember how to have that sense of wonder and joy. You get up. You get ready. You go to work. You come home so that you can get to bed and do it all again tomorrow. There is precious little time left for anything besides the worry and just getting things done....after all we better be ready for what is to come tomorrow or else.

I think the monotony of it all combined with the soul crushing effects of persistent worry is the reason I always love getting to see the preschoolers at my church and kids at our family service. They are inevitably excited and joyful about whatever it is they have going on. There is something magical about experiencing the world with them and through their eyes. Their faces light up when it is their turn to share about what is happening in their day. They are full of joy and excitement when they get to say a prayer for others. They have this holy wonder at ordinary things that turn these into something extraordinary because they can See God at work in it.

What is it that they here that we have lost and how do we get it back?


Shabbat is what they have that we have lost.

Shabbat is what children innately understand and make a place for in their lives that gets crowded out by our worries and busyness as we grow up.

Shabbat is holy rest and time to play and be with bad. At the heart of Shabbat is the biblical imperative to keep the Sabbath holy and as a time of rest, renewal, and holy play.

Failing to keep a holy Sabbath filled with holy rest and holy plans is a sin because it makes an idol out of our own industriousness and productivity. Like all sins the results are predictable and inevitable. That creeping invasive sense of worry is a result of not having Shabbat in your life.

The lack of a sense of wonder is from a lack of Shabbat. It is really hard to have a sense of holy wonder and joy when you are just shattered tired and never are able to just be with God in holy play.

You are busy. I get it. The whole world is busy and COVID-19 has made us all busier as work has found a way to creep even into our homes. But can you honestly say that you don't crave that sense of holy wonder and joy? Can you honestly say you don't need that Shabbat? Even God took a day for rest.

So here is what we are going to do to start getting it back in your life. Pull at your cell phone. Mine has this amazing app called a calendar on it. Make an appointment and set a time for Shabbat. Set it up as a recurring appointment with a reminder one day before.

Go ahead and do it even if it means pausing the video I'll wait for you.

Once you have gotten the appointment set. You have set that up right? Once it is set up the next part takes some discipline on your part. When someone be it your boss or the really well intentioned do-gooder community organization or you own sense of industriousness tries to get you to either fill guilty or schedule something during your time for Shabbat remember to check your calendar to see if you can make the appointment fit into you calendar.

I actively do this and it really works.

Look at your calendar app and gently say "I'm sorry but I already have a commitment at that time."

If you want to have the sound of joy in your mouth and wonder in your heart you need that Shabbat. If you want to sing the praises of the Lord then you have to have time to be and play with Jesus. There is simply no substitute for that Shabbat time.

Connect with me for help getting your joy back!

Embrace that holy rest and holy play. Amen.

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