Although we are multi-dimensional beings, most people only understand their body and personality. But the largest part, our spirit, our temple, is our least understood and most ignored dimension. Why is that? I think it goes something like this:
A newborn baby only knows the breast. In time, other perceptions—voice, temperature, noise, pain, balance, motion, taste, smells, faces, language—awaken that young life. Soon, all five senses help integrate the child into her family and society.
Sometime later, an awareness of the Holy arrives.
Perhaps it appears when the child first gazes into the night canopy of the cosmos. Later, the human heart hears a whispered invitation to step up to that holy realm. Now he or she will rise toward union with the Creator.
But civilization seems to resist our response to the invitation. Well, of course it does. The foreheads of many cultural “experts”—like journalists, politicians, scientists, entertainers, and authors—appear permanently furrowed by darkness, cynicism, guilt, and fear; that’s why their voices scold and their touches injure.
Why do we even pay attention to them? Since we don’t know them personally; we have no idea what they know, believe, honor, embrace, or reject. So, why do we call them into our homes and invite them to open their thoughts?
Psst, hey, you…the experts don’t know. Appearing on The View or The Five does not verify wisdom.
Many years ago, as I mowed several acres of grass with a tractor and bush hog, I suddenly realized my wallet had slipped out of my back pocket. Panic! My driver’s license, cash, and credit cards were gone. Probably chewed up by the bush hog.
For quite a long time, I walked slowly over the ground I’d already mowed, looking for shredded leather and paper. Nothing.
As a last resort, I prayed. Earnestly.
Then I climbed back on the tractor to finish the mowing. A half hour later, when I saw a big rock in my path, I stopped the tractor and jumped down to move it. When I did, my right foot landed on my wallet! I will not live long enough to understand what happened. I hadn’t come near that spot earlier.
Aside from the joy of finding what was lost, that moment reaffirmed the creature’s connection with his Creator. I asked Him for my wallet. He wasn’t too busy.
J. R. R. Tolkien added the Greek prefix “Eu” (connoting “good”) to “catastrophe,” (from its rare meaning of “end of the story”) to coin the word, “eucatastrophe.” He defined it as “a sudden and favorable resolution of events,” or “Joy beyond the walls of the world…”
Think of the times when the shadow of loss darkened. Then, after standing face-to-face with “the end,” full joy suddenly invaded your life. Although you didn’t deserve it, pure delight rushed in from outside your familiar world. Finding my wallet was such a moment.
The Audacity of Joy
Joy is not a response; it is a deliberate dance before Heaven and earth. Your whole being—body, soul, and spirit—chooses to celebrate. Audaciously. You don’t wait for circumstances to launch or approve your joy. You just do it; at noon or midnight, in full health or dying, and adorned by wealth or poverty. Be joyful. Hell or high water.
The Bible speaks of “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…”
Jesus knew He was destined for a barbaric death. But He also saw the eucatastrophe behind and beyond the end. His joy was not a response to the cross, but rather a bold declaration throughout the universe that He would win by crushing (not avoiding) the cross. As the author and perfecter of faith, Jesus pulled joy from somewhere beyond the walls of the world. Even in death.
And as His sons and daughters, we can do that too. Go ahead. Practice joy. Every day. Go past the borders of your experience to tap into the new and future world. Then bring its power and freshness back into your circumstances. You may find others are also waiting for the new world and its joy.
 Verlyn Flieger & Douglas A. Anderson, Tolkien on Fairy-Stories (Glasgow: HarperCollins, UK edition, 2014)
 Hebrews 12:2 taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD (NAS): Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, copyright© 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
18 thoughts on “Joy Beyond the Walls of the World”
So good, Ed. Love the new word from Tolkien.
Thanks, Dudley. Yes, that word does capture something transcendent.
I was just wondering this morning while on a short walk with my dog…what is the benefit of “suffering” through Covid, intestinal affliction, thrush and, now, a urinary tract infection over the past three weeks. Knowing these temporary afflictions are momentary yet demanding immediate relief…what is the point of it all? Ashamed to even compare these to the barbaric cross…I still cry out for relief. My thoughts about what good purpose a good God had for this brought me to the brink of saying…”but there must be something.” Eucatastrophe is the something. Thanks, Ed.
I think you’re right, Mike. The whole idea of joy as a purpose of living changes so many perceptions. Thank you.
Ed, this is just delightful as everything else that comes from your heart and thoughts. I loved one statement: “Joy is …a deliberate dance before Heaven and earth. Your whole being—body, soul, and spirit—chooses to celebrate.”
Being happy in our walk with our God is a personal choice. Love it!
Thank you for your reminder about this, and the sweetness of “Eucatastrophe!”
Thanks, Glen. You’ve taught me more about joy than anyone else. That’s probably because you live it better than anyone else!
Ed, Thanks for the invitation… The invitation to a new word that helps to define those events that otherwise cannot be described. I really like that word, “eucatastrophe.” I understood the term “God-thing” to describe events that defy explanation; but I never really liked that term. I think I didn’t like it because I felt it used the word “God” in a somewhat flippant way. I like eucatastrophe much better as long as we keep in mind that what is really going on in the event is an encounter between the Creator and the creature.
I also appreciate the invitation to focus my life more towards experiencing JOY.
Thanks as always.
Something in me has always reacted to “God-thing.” Maybe you’re right; it seems flippant. It also strikes me as too creature-centric. So much of language sounds and feels fresh the first dozen times you hear it. But then it slides into something else. Thanks, Tom.
Ed, You have touched on my favorite subject -feeling-expression-inspiration —-JOY. I often sign my books or emails Peace and Joy. I strive for peace and joy within. There is such an overwhelming joy I find in gazing upon the beauty of this world from sunrise to sunset. I just read this “by sharing joy with whoever is in front of you at any moment, you become a Light switch for others.” What a great joy that we can become a Light switch to spread joy. It is indeed a personal choice to walk in joy with God. Live it. Share it.
Thank you, Ed, for another inspiring and challenging piece.
Thanks, Mary Ann. What you have passed through could have built a far different expression from your heart. I will always love how you push through the surface to connect with the heart of God. And that seems to give you new eyes for Him and His world.
I love the wallet story, Ed. On the topic of joy, my wife, Debbie, taught me this one: J. O. Y. Jesus, others, yourself. I think she’s on to something.
Thanks, Tim. I agree about Debbie’s insight. That’s good.
What a rare and wonderful reflection on the eternal hope that is within us. The writer in Ecclesiastes mused, ” God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” It is in us, it’s a part of our fabric, but we struggle to get a grasp on the this eternal relationship.
Your statement, “Audaciously. You don’t wait for circumstances to launch or approve your joy. You just do it; at noon or midnight, in full health or dying, and adorned by wealth or poverty.” Never too soon, never too late. Dancing, swaying to the music in a way that causes our physical self to be properly aligned with the eternal melodies.
Thank you Ed. Great essay and reminder.
Ed, thank you for your powerful reminder concerning joy. Yup. Joyful hope is the powerful spice possessed by those people that I admire the most. Energizer Bunny joyful hope. The unwavering, joyful hope of the weathered Heroes of Faith clinging to the Promises set before them. The joyful hope of common saints who make space for it at the peak of their achievements, when managing the rigors of relationships, while suffering in a hospital room. Like a beggar gathering crumbs, I gather joy scattered by those who carry joy with them. Joyful hope can come at a new birth, or when crafted from apparent rusted ruins. And it can come right now, bursting afresh into my otherwise ordinary life. Yes, right now.
“Jesus pulled joy from somewhere beyond the walls of the world.”
A key for us living in joy is following Jesus in these words above. Such a great article Ed.
For the first time in this whole covid season I have been feeling the loss personally. Just yesterday I was telling God, I’m not ready to be joyful over a good friend loosing her battle with covid. I get up this morning still with a heavy heart and read your words. Today was an answer to yesterday’s prayer. Joy was right there all along in me and around me waiting to be experienced. Joy is not happiness, it is something deeper and better. Today the loss will still hurt but I can begin to picture the the past joy the relationship provided. Maybe even the joy she is experiencing apart finally from this sinful world. Thank you Ed for this gift.
I’ve performed this deliberate dance before Heaven and earth. Sometimes the earth (and even myself) says, “Why are you doing that, especially now?” But, you are right. It is that uncontainable joy. Thanks for putting my dancing into words.
Thank you ED for this! The way you use your gifts to clearly express Father’s heart to us is rare and wonderful. I am so grateful you have chosen Him over the world’s offerings.
Dancing hearts, dancing eyes, dancing words and tunes – we choose joy.