It’s not just joy – it’s “bigger than the universe” joy

by Craig on November 19, 2010

So here’s the deal according to The Book of James.

Suffering equals joy.

I suffer, I hurt, I mess up, things get ruined … and it’s joy.

James 1:1 “Consider it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you encounter various trials.”

And it’s not just joy – it’s “bigger than the universe” joy.

First of all, I watch this. It fills me with wonder. But Carl Sagan, although he has so much right, has a conclusion that’s all wrong.

It begins with a picture of our planet taken from beyond Saturn.




The entire earth is a pale blue dot suspended on a sunbeam. I am just a dot, on a dust ball, in the vastness that is the universe. How important are my problems? He has that one right.

But he slips up when he says that “it’s a delusion that we have a privileged position in the universe”.

That one is an epic wrong.  I am nothing compared to the Universe. I get that. But I am God’s nothing and when compared to the Universe I am everything – and so are you.

This dot is in the only perfect spot we know of anywhere in any universe. That sounds a little important. The God who made the big stage upon which the dot is not even a speck lived. on. it. He laid down his life for the nothings that skidaddle all. over. it. That sounds privileged.

And he says there’s no hint that there is evidence that any help will come to save us from ourselves. That’s a bold statement of faith, but our faith has better evidence. Scientifically speaking this planet is protected in a billion different ways, of which no other planet we know of, shares even a few.

But the viewing of  “my problems” in the context of the whole Universe thing?  I’ll still give him that one – and another point for finishing the video strong.

Except for that quote at the end!

Just because you’re a memory doesn’t mean you’re not dead. Those people who remember you are also going to be dead too.

One last thing – Earth, being the only perfectly protected pale blue dot suspended on a sunbeam, in the middle of a vast cosmic chaos, that speaks of  a Creator who beats the odds all to smithereens.

If  I belong to that Creator, then my problems belong to him. If he cares enough to place this pale blue dot in the one perfect spot, in the near limitlessness expanse of the universe, he can find a little safe spot for me – in His will. I just need to stay there – where he places me.

All of this science just to say this.

It’s not just joy. It’s “bigger than the universe joy”

When I read this verse in the English, it sounds like it’s saying that the word “all” is linked with the word “trials” – and not the word “joy”. It’s a very subtle thing.  But it makes a gigantic difference in what the verse means.

The thing is, that if we read it like this, it sounds like it’s saying “Consider all of the trials as joy.” That’s the way I always read it – before I translated the verse.

In the Greek, the endings of words match the endings of the other words to which they are linked. Grammatically, “all” modifies “joy“. And when “all” modifies “joy” in the Greek, it is often used to intensify the noun. So “all joy”  may really be better translated as:

perfect joy,

the kind of joy that is of God

beyond the moment of circumstance joy

the knowledge and feeling that the only God is in control – kind of  joy

And the God in control of all, cares about my cares, kind of joy

not happy happy bluebirds singing joy

but definitely “bigger than the universe” joy

And if this joy is bigger than the universe, it can envelop my particular worry.

I believe that the pale blue dot is a protected blue dot – and I am a protected speck – and you are a protected speck.

And if I lay any situation at His feet, and ask for His will, and want His will, I will get His will…and that will be a good thing. It is mine to control what I can, and let him spin the universe. He’s good at that.

Whether it feels good or not, whether it seems to work out or not, whether there seems no ending to the trial or not, there is a kind of joy about that.

It’s “bigger than the universe” joy.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie November 21, 2010 at 12:46 am

I think I needed to hear about bigger than the universe joy today. I needed to know that He who put the whole universe in place can keep me in my place. I needed to know that all is more related to joy than trials. And that no matter if the trial ever ends, I’m still protected.
Craig, you have put so much into this. I mostly do simple, but I’m loving the deep too! Thank you with all the joy in my heart tonight!


Craig November 21, 2010 at 12:53 am

This means more to me than you can know Deb.

By the way, when I was discussing my “deep into” blog names with my sister, she said they were the perfect names – telling me something like “that’s good – all you can do is deep!” She’s right. Deb, I’m grateful and blessed that this, in any way, blessed you.


Anonymuss November 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

Thank you, again, Craig. I needed this…heading into ‘church’ day…so full of religion when I just want some truth and life and Christ-love and fellowship with His own and even encounters with those who are not quite yet His own-maybe on the way to becoming?

You have such a non-condemning way of writing that is both incredibly refreshing and life-giving to one who has had to stop reading the bible (did not stop loving Jesus) for a few years because it had taken on other, harsher, more fear-filled, authoritarian voices-impostors…but very loud, cruel ones for me for a while. The night I read your first articles I just laid in bed, afterward, with the lights out and basked in the radiant warmth of the absence of the harsh voices in your writings. It is the first night for a long time that it has felt safe to come out-or rather-to peek into the bible again…and let its words speak to me again. I cannot begin to tell you what a great and precious gift this is…thank you so much, Craig! Thank you for helping me to see Jesus, again, in the pages of the bible. It makes me cry now just to think of it-so much joy…! This is HUGE!!!! You are a conveyor of grace, helping to set a captive free once again.


Craig November 21, 2010 at 4:49 pm

On a day that I needed reminding that these words of mine can actually be used for some good – you come my way and do so. Thank you for your kind words. But today you were the gift. You were a conveyor of grace. Well done :)

And A. sometimes the word is harsh – and even authoritarian – but it’s all about love – it should be more about what we do, than what we don’t – and if we’re busy in the doing of the good – we just simply do the “not good” far less. We (I) have to be busy doing the good. We only have so much time and opportunity :) James is actually going to point some fingers later – but not in a legalistic way – but a love way – A Jesus way.

And hey. thank you.


Anonymuss November 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Ok, it is true that sometimes a good thing comes in a difficult or painful package. I like the ‘love way’ or ‘Jesus way’ of putting things-am looking forward to more thoughts on James-painful or no. Like a child (or adult) sitting on the doctor’s bench-if Doc comes at you with a big needle, it is easier to take the more one trusts the Doc. Like what you said about the ratio of ‘doing good’ to doing ‘not good’, too.

ready to peek through a bigger crack between fingers now…


Craig November 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hey A. My eyes usually look right through those same fingers. I just never see the tapestry he’s weaving from the side he’s weaving it. It’s an analogy I remember from Seminary – form underneath the tapestry is nothing but a bunch of disconnected fabric – only the view from the top is where it all makes sense. I’m always needing the higher view.

thank you a.


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