Surprised by Joy

A Christian Perspective

Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis,
Surprised by Joy
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Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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A letter was recently put up for auction that was written by CS Lewis on 19 August 1945. It was discovered inside a secondhand book entitled The Problem of Pain.

In the letter, Lewis tells a Mrs. Ellis that “everything is going well,” but goes on to explain that he does not mean “joy” by this. “In fact I meant by ‘things going well’ just security – or the illusion of security”.

“Real joy seems to me almost as unlike security or prosperity as it is unlike agony,” he writes.

Joy, he would write later in his memoir Surprised by Joy , “must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure.” He pursued happiness and pleasure only to find, once attained, it was not what he was looking for after all.

As a young man, Lewis did his best to avoid faith — even to actively resist belief. But one night, as a university student, working in his room, he experienced : “the steady, unrelenting approach of One whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.”

Lewis didn’t go to God that night. God came to him. And what kind of God is it that accepts Lewis, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?

Well, when theologian Karl Barth, was asked, “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of them all?

Of all the wise thoughts he had shared in lectures and books, he replied with the words of an old familiar hymn: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

God seeks to approach us throughout human history, while with our actions, humans have sought to distance ourselves as far as possible from the holy. Prophets came and went, evil continued to triumph.
But then, one night, a baby was born in ridiculously humble and human circumstances. In the middle of an oppressive census, to a refugee family far from home, rejected by innkeepers, in a mucky stable, hot with the breath of animals. And WHAM! God entered into an all too human world with a whimper.

Joy was born.

In his letter to Mrs. Ellis, Lewis describes this joy, this longing for God:
This Joy was so intense for something so good and so high up it could not be explained with words:

“real joy … jumps under ones ribs and tickles down one’s back and makes one forget meals and keeps one (delightedly) sleepless o’ nights”.

He is struck with “stabs of joy” throughout his life.
Lewis ultimately discovers the true nature and purpose of Joy and its place in his own life as he makes the leap from atheism to believing in God, and then to Christianity and as a result, he realizes that Joy is like a “signpost” to those lost in the woods, pointing the way.

“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8. 38

The infant Jesus is our living, breathing sign of the limitless love that God has had for all of us from the very beginning. Luke 2.1-20

Christmas is the promise that we are never ever alone. No matter what stupid things we might do; no matter how unfaithful we are; no matter how actively we resist, God will be searching for us, yearning to be born in us.

May your love story continue with Jesus. May you know joy this year! And may you experience “stabs of joy” your whole life long.

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