What is the biggest challenge to joy?

What keeps us from being joyful? Our small Christian community (Lunch with Jesus) that gathers weekly at our San Lorenzo Mission House has reflected a lot lately on what keeps us from experiencing the joy that God hopes for us all. As we've reflected on the Gospel stories together, a theme keeps coming up. The biggest challenge to joy seems to be fear. Fear of the past, fear of the future, fear of today. It paralyzes us and distorts reality in ways that keeps from simply living.

Today as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we are reminded of what he had to say about fear and the challenges he faced in overcoming it. Although he lived this out on a large and historic stage, it is a reality we all face: fear is the enemy, especially fear of loss and ultimately, fear of death.  Until it's confronted, it's hard to do the right thing, much less, simply live with the joy and gratitude that God hopes for us each day.

In his November 5th, 1967 sermon, Dr. King told his congregation:

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” 

How many of us, out of fear, settle for a "safe" but joyless life that is really nothing more than a pre-mature death of spirit?   Embrace God's mission of love.