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The problem with Joy


red balloon detail from larger acrylic painting called "untethered" by Lydia Crouch
Why is joy tagged with a pinch of shame in the church today?

I’ve been thinking about Joy for years. It’s a powerful thing. But the church I have known has, for the most part, attached guilt or shame to our definition of it. That's a problem.


What a weird thing to realize, now that I write it out in black and white - or dark and light.


What partnership can guilt have with joy?


As I write this, it’s November. I have S.A.D. and live in the Pacific Northwest on the rainy side of the mountains. I am well acquainted with depression and all its nuances - feeling gray, weight gain, lethargy, shame based thinking, fatigue and a whole host of joy robbers.


Also, in my lifetime, I have never seen the church with less joy than right now. Covid. Politics. Sham preachers. Sexual misconduct wrecking pastors yet praised on our movie nights.


Confusion is a joy robber.


HOWEVER, since the Lord keeps walking me toward Joy, I believe He has something here for me!


The most jolting wakeup call for me was years ago when my son, Davis was little. We had recently moved into this house we still call home. I'm not exactly sure, but he would have been around 8, 9 or 10 years old when this happened. As I often did, I snuck into his room in the wee hours to pray over him as he slept. On this night, there was some warfare to do but I wasn’t sure about the what or why. I just felt it. So I asked the Lord, “What do I pray?”



“Pray that his - and your - watermark be Joy.”


Now as an artist and stationery lover who loves papers and their interaction with pen and pencil, this was instantly powerful to me. In my mind, I could see the watermark on paper and knew what He was saying.


You see, for centuries the best papers have watermarks with the manufacturer's name in them. Yes, I said in, not on. You don’t see it unless you hold the paper up to the light.


The thing about watermarks is that the name is not stamped on top of the fibers. It is literally pressed into the fibers of the paper during the wet (transformative) phase.


The Lord was inviting me to pray that Joy would be infused and pressed into the very fiber of our being so that when we get held up to the light, we are marked as His workmanship.


(Was I excluding Rich and Laina? Absolutely not. But the truth is, they somehow already had this. As I said, this was an area of warfare, not personality.)



As I stood there in the dark, I asked, “Well, what is our watermark now?”


“Guilt,” the Lord said calmly but with a firm concern.


“Lord, I understand that I crumble under guilt when I do something wrong. But what about when I’m doing things right?”


“Fear of guilt.”



And there it is. The counterfeit of Joy. The Joy robber.


When he was talking to the Romans, Paul said, “The kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)


Oh wait. The Holy Spirit has something to do with all this? Hmmm.


And again, later in the letter, Paul writes “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:


So, not only is the Holy Spirit all tied up in Joy and peace, but having this joy and peace in relationship to Holy Spirit is key to overflowing with ho