I was fortunate to hop into the car today as the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was spewing forth from the speakers. Loud, raucous, Fruede!!
This symphony, perhaps like no other, captures that unbounded sense of joy. The huge chorus, rich and broad harmonies, that word JOY! over and over. It is understandably one of the most recognized pieces of music in the world.
How amazing, then, to know that when Beethoven wrote this he had gone completely deaf. It is said that at the end of its premier, which Beethoven conducted, one of his musicians had to turn him around because he could not hear the thunderous applause of the audience. “Beethoven revealed in a heart-wrenching 1801 letter to his friend Franz Wegeler, ‘I must confess that I lead a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession, I might be able to cope with my infirmity; but in my profession it is a terrible handicap’ (from biography.com).”
How do you compose a piece of such joy when wrapped in such profound silence?
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
And yet, this is what the life of faith offers: joy even in the midst of terror. Often we mistake “life of faith” for “life of ease” or “life without problems.” Jesus never promised us that. Jesus never said, “Follow me and I will make your life great and everyone envious of your good fortune.”
The life of discipleship does not remove us from the hard stuff of life. In fact, sometimes our faith plunges us all the more into its heartbreak and hardness. Yet, in Christ we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, and with that the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Our life of discipleship calls us to life in joy not because all outward signs point to it, but precisely because they may not. Joy is not the outcome of our current circumstances; joy is a fruit that the Spirit offers us in the midst of whatever we are in.
I forget that sometimes. I forget that joy is mine because God gives it to me. It isn’t something that my circumstances bequeath to me, it is mine because the Holy Spirit brings it forth in me as a fruit.
May God bring forth the fruit of joy in you. And if you need a little help grasping that fruit today, enjoy…