Joy as a Matter of Protest?

“Joy is resistance to disorder, cynicism, entropy and despair. It is not simply resistance but courageous resistance that, I suspect, transcends reason. Most miraculous experiences baffle reason…” 

~ Toi Derricote, African American Poet

As Christians, our joy is rooted in the living hope we have in Christ through the Resurrection.  We are living through a really challenging season – perhaps the most challenging season most of us have ever faced both professionally and privately. But as in all that GOD wills or allows, with His infinite creativity, He is able to make all things beautiful in its season.   In times like these, the Gospel must not be hidden by the grimness of our circumstance, and neither can the joy that enlivens those who have been captured by it!  Joy is an internal state of being, but it is also a public expression of the hope that we have in Christ.

In the Black Church, this joy amid suffering, has been intrinsic to our identity (I don’t know how much of this remains true with our continued evolution and integration with the dominant culture).  The stubbornly hopeful roots of our liberation theology, our tendency toward exuberance, and our quilt-making creativity born in crises and bred in sparsity of our economy, is a lesson in how GOD allows our pain to become productive, how through struggle He produces strength, and how in suffering He produces stamina and steadfastness.

The joy that we possess is paradoxical. The joy that we possess is prophetic.  The joy that we possess is public.  The joy that we possess is also subversive, revolutionary.  Our joy, especially in times like this is a matter of protest.  My foremothers and forefathers sang, marched, sat-down, stood-up, and created under the oppressive strain of slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and racism.  It was the joy that possessed them that fueled their pursuits.  They planted trees in whose shade they would never sit.

Toi Derricote defines joy as a resistance to disorder, cynicism, entropy, and despair.  She says that this joy, ‘transcends reason,’ and I think she nails it (no pun intended)!  The ironic joy that Christ modeled as He endured the Cross (see Hebrews 12:1-2 again) is not just storytelling but it is instructive.  Christ is our Champion, but He is also our Exemplar. Jesus modeled joy in public and under the most extraordinary pressure that any human being could ever encountered!  His joy was a witness against wicked and corrupt powers who in their arrogance and ignorance condemned him to die!   In His dying, Christ not only bore witness against the corrupt institutional leadership of his time (both church and state), but He did so with a dignity and humanity that I believe was fueled by His love for us and the promise of joy.

Our joy, as followers of Jesus, must then necessarily put us at odds with the angst that is promoted by the dominant culture.  Our joy will often bring us into open conflict with what the world values.  Our joy may even look silly, inappropriate, and perhaps even irrational.  But like Toi Derricote says, “most miraculous experiences baffle reason.”

The dreadful human pronouncements and the even more disturbing human behavior that is being displayed right now, will not have the final say!  GOD has another move. GOD has another WORD.  GOD has an alternative to despair and hopelessness. In a time defined by fear and sorrow, skepticism and suspicion, we have an alternative.  This alternative is JOY!  And this joy must be embraced, exclaimed, and exercised!

In times of grief, lament is certainly important.  Giving room to our emotions is valuable in the healing process and integral to our self-care.  But while we are grieving, let us never lose sight of the hope that remains at the core of our faith!  The crux of our faith is the living hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; the one who suffered, was bruised, betrayed, and abandoned.  We have a living hope which gives us cause to rejoice!  He died and yet He lives – how do we know He lives?  It must be that He lives in us.  In our hearts, in our thoughts, in our speech, in our actions, and in our disposition.

Jesus, who is the Light of the World, dwells in us.  And this light shines; protesting the shadows; sending darkness fleeing.  This is the true light, that the darkness cannot overcome or comprehend.  This is the hope that clings to the promises of GOD during uncertainty.  This is the joy that makes us sing in the rain!  This is the love that lifts us from life’s angry waves and gives us peace!

Is this not the Gospel we declare – drenched in light and love, rooted in the living hope, and punctuated by our persistent praise and the stubbornness of our joy at the promises of His peace and of His presence with us always?

To declare joy, especially at a time like this is subversive – and it is at least as necessary as grief and lament in a time like this.  Paul wrote these words while imprisoned.  Think about that.


Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact Adam Mixon, Content Curator, at a Our staff is always available to you as you pursue the joys and challenges of leadership.

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