What is this thing called …. joy?

The most challenging aspect of my very action-packed (and now long!) life wasn’t surviving a disrupted education, a lousy childhood and adolescence, as if somehow that survival was down to me and my amazing strength. It wasn’t. I was lost and blundering (and blubbering) most of the time.

And the most exciting aspect of this long life was not crash-landing in a plane at Orly Airport, or nearly sinking off the Isle of Sheppey in an ancient boat along with my dogs and cat, and it wasn’t coming off a motorbike in snow on Charing Hill (although that was pretty heart stopping) or driving powerful cars (probably too fast) or nearly drowning in the Med with a badly mangled foot.

The most fascinating times of my life were not the years spent in Africa, or Cyprus, or Egypt, or in the Army, or nursing.

The most surprising time of my life wasn’t the discovery that I could write the sort of scripts that producers wanted to make and broadcasters wanted to buy.

The most rewarding achievements of that bumbling messy life aren’t the awards, or the MBE or the thrill of of being on a drama set, or being the writer-in-residence at the RSC, or sitting in the twilight studio of Desert Island Discs and while it was fun having a South Bank Show dedicated to boring old me (woman with bulldog and not much to say) I never fooled myself that I had earned any of it and I never, for one moment, believed any of the hoohah and the flattery.

I don’t decry any of that long list – and I love looking back on nearly all of it, but none of it has lasting value. It’s all yesterday. It brought happiness and a temporary fulfilment, but nothing eternal. Happiness fades with time, like old photographs. Fulfilment is fleeting. Cars grow old and have to be replaced. TV dramas are forgotten. My Bafta needs a polish, the crystal awards need a scrub and a shine, the South Bank Show is gone, it’s all of the moment, limited by time. Only joy is eternal. And joy can’t be found in the material or in anything we achieve. I don’t think it can be found in even the most beautiful sight in the world. When we stand on a mountain top and gaze down at a hundred miles of beauty, we may feel elation and a tingling awareness and appreciation of the moment….deep deep happiness, a sense of one-ness with creation…. but that doesn’t last. Even that doesn’t last. The next day we can be distressed, lost, angry, shaken.

I think sometimes ‘us’ Christians forget to say that knowing God, knowing in the sense of experiencing him and submitting to his kingship, is a deep and indescribable joy (but I’m such an idiot I keep trying to describe it) And we should be willing to say with conviction, and fearlessness, that there is only one eternal joy. One joy that survives every grief and hardship and confusion.

I think we forget that those who follow Christ know something so special that it seems to be a sort of madness to those who don’t have it. We talk about the peace that surpasses all understanding and that’s fabulous, wonderful, amazing, but it’s only half the story – how about the joy that surpasses all understanding?

A joy that’s so intense it’s physical. A joy that, when I take it out to look at it, and thank God for it, and really really think about it, brings tears to my eyes and a sort of ache to my bones. It does! It makes my bones ache.

Weird, eh?

I have a little notebook on my desk, a tiny thing, and one of the very small pages says… well, see for yourselves… it’s from Psalm 62 and I think it’s just one of the most exciting verses in the whole Bible (TPT).

The GREATER your passion for more, the GREATER reward I will give you.

I love that Psalm so I often turn to it, but it’s more than just these two verses. I need to remind myself of the context, so that I can grasp what God is saying and can turn it back to him as a prayer. What passion is this psalm talking about? What sort of reward will God give us? Oh, listen, listen, here it is, pin back your lugholes and be prepared for joy and amazement:

All the love you need is found in me! The greater your passion for more, the greater reward I will give you.”

Today, in our online service at Mount Zion Church, we started a ten sermon series on discipleship, and it’s so exciting! This is excitement, and fulfilment and challenge and all the rest of it. This is JOY. Discipleship is joy. As I listened I found my heart quickening because I know that discipleship brings us closer and closer to the eternal. Joy unlimited.

The more we love God, with the love that comes from God, the more we will want to love him, the more passion we will feel, the deeper and stronger and wider and thicker and brighter and richer and exceedingly bloomin’ amazing our joy will be.

Doesn’t that make your bones ache?

If you’re up for discipleship, go to:


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