Experience, experiential, experientialism … are these words you associate with Christianity? Have you ever encountered people who insist, Christianity is about dogma, not experience? Is that your experience maybe?
Recently I came across a comment from a former Wiccan who said, "I didn't know that real Christianity was experiential, that true Christians have a deeply personal relationship with God." I thought, how unfortunate. I then thought, sadly, how unfortunate most introductory courses on Christianity focus on the essential teachings, without any teaching on experience! No wonder so many people get such jaundiced impressions.
It got me thinking about the range of emotions that people experience, in everyday life and in their encounters with God. What reflections have the apostles and prophets left for us? As it turns out, there's heaps if we care to look. I began … with joy.
Be joyful at your feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.
1 Chronicles 29:17
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.
For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.
Then I would still have this consolation— my joy in unrelenting pain— that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence
Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
They are led in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace.
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
2 Corinthians 7:4
In all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
1 Thessalonians 5:16
Be joyful always
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds
1 Peter 1:8
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
Much to reflect on … and much more if we look deeper.