Formations 11.22.2020: Be Joyful Always

2 Samuel 6:12b-23

Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyful about other people’s joy. Even when we’re supposed to let a loved one bask in success and happiness, it can be tough to push down our own envy, bitterness, and exasperation. Sure, it’s good for them. But what about us?

Look at David’s wife, Michal. The glorious ark of the covenant, the beautiful container that holds God’s commandments and hosts God’s presence, is finally coming home. It had a three-month detour in the home of Obed-edom, blessing him “and all his household” (6:11). Now, after the horrendous experience of watching God strike down Uzzah (who had dared to touch the ark), after dealing with his own anger over God’s wrath, and after entrusting the ark to someone else’s care (see 6:6-11), David can’t contain his excitement. All is forgiven, his relationship with God is right again, and the ark is returning to Jerusalem, the “city of David” (v. 12), at long last.

Michal stands at the window of their home and watches her wild husband, leaping and dancing and making offerings and feeding “all the people” as if the food will never run out (v. 19). Maybe the significance of the moment isn’t lost on Michal. Maybe she knows how she should react. Maybe part of her wants to rush out leaping and dancing too.

But another part of her takes over. Disgusted, bitter, and probably jealous, she comes out to meet David and scolds him for “uncovering himself” and being “vulgar” (v. 20). She simply can’t bring herself to share in his joy. And because of that, she is deprived of her own joy (v. 23).

I can think of times when I’ve been less than thrilled about a loved one’s success. I watched them get awards or receive a pay raise or be congratulated or take an overseas trip, and my smile hid what I was really feeling inside. What about me? When is it my turn?

I couldn’t bring myself to fully share in their joy. And though it didn’t punish me physically like it did Michal, my selfishness certainly punished me emotionally in the weeks and months to come. When we can’t feel joyful about other people’s joy, we perpetuate the myth of scarcity—that there’s only so much joy to go around, and once it’s gone, there will be no more. That’s not true. Joy multiplies forever and ever for those who allow themselves to feel it, whether it’s their personal joy or joy because of someone else’s success and happiness.

“Be joyful always!” (1 Thess 5:16)

Discussion

  • Why do you think Michal reacted the way she did to David’s joy over the ark coming home to Jerusalem?
  • Do you think her “punishment” fit her “crime”?
  • When has someone you cared about felt tremendous joy over something? How did you feel to see them experience this joy?
  • Have you ever felt bitter over someone’s joy? How did that work out for you and for them?
  • What can you do to cultivate a more joyful spirit so that you feel joy instead of envy over other people’s success and happiness?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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