What’s that saying about the “best-laid plans?”
I can’t recall the whole line off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure it applies to this blog today.
My best-laid plan for this post was to finish reading Rev. Matthew Harrison’s Little Book on Joy: The Secret of Living a Good News Life in A Bad News World (the December book of the month), write a reflection on it Sunday, pre-post it, then jump in the car Monday and travel north for a few days—from Kansas to Wisconsin (and eventually on to Minnesota).
But then came news of winter storms on the horizon, predicted to hit every destination on our path.
The new plan: Leave early for Wisconsin, finish the book in the car, and write the post.
Everything made it into the car—except for the book.
So, the plan has gone awry—twice—but that may be a good thing. A Little Book on Joy really doesn’t have to be read in one sitting; in fact, it would likely be just as beneficial, if not more so, if read in small chunks.
So, if you like to read solid theology in small doses, this book is for you.
This book is also for you if…
You appreciate sound theological insights and observations.
This one probably goes without saying. Rev. Harrison, president of the LCMS, knows his stuff.
You like conversational, story-filled teaching.
Flying over Mt. Kilimanjaro! Snowmobiling at Cousin Larry’s! The BB gun mishap! The stories are engaging, and they always make a point.
You’re looking for a book to use for your personal devotions.
One chapter a day would give you several weeks to think about various facets of Christian joy.
You’re looking for a group Bible study topic.
Each short chapter is followed by a suggested hymn and a list of study questions, which could be used as is or tweaked as needed.
You’re looking for the secret to joy.
Spoiler alert! Rev. Harrison reveals the secret of joy in the first chapter of the book. But the secrets don’t end there; he includes one in pretty much every chapter. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons I plan to keep reading when I get home.)
You’re interested in learning something new.
This is the other reason I’ll keep reading. In the early pages of the book, Rev. Harrison discusses some initial reservations about his study of joy.
“Would a serious and sober Christian really concentrate on joy? Is it a topic worthy of thought in its own right?”
Yes, and yes.
There are likely a number of important takeaways in this book, but one of my favorites thus far is this: God rejoices over sinners.
It’s a familiar truth. I know the passage about the great joy in heaven over one repentant sinner (Luke 15:7). I’ve heard the parable of the prodigal son’s return—and importantly, his father’s reaction (Luke 15:20-24)—countless times. But when I think about the subject of joy in the Christian’s life, I typically don’t think about God rejoicing over us.
I might be more likely to do that now after reading A Little Book on Joy, and specifically these words from Martin Luther, which Rev. Harrison highlights in chapter 2:
He will rejoice over you with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17). All these things signify that their consciences would experience that fatherly sweetness of the kingdom of the Lord. The sense is this: “You will feel the joy. You will feel in your conscience that the Lord is kindly disposed toward you, that He surely is a kind Father to you in all things.” You see, the Lord is said to rejoice over us when he causes us to sense his favor… He has expressed the nature of the kingdom of Christ very aptly and emphatically. For thus it happens for the righteous that he allows them to be attacked… in various ways, and to be troubled by many evils, so that they be conformed to their King. Yet he adds that feeling of joy, that security of heart, so that all things may become sweeter, so that nothing can separate them from the love of God, Romans 8:39. (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, 18:361, quoted in chapter 2, “The Father’s Joy”; emphasis added.)
Is joy a worthy topic? Absolutely.
And you don’t need to read the whole book to figure that out.