Moltmann Monday: On Joy and Fun

Hi Moltmann friends! I hope you’re having a relaxing Labor Day today. I thought I’d share these sentences from Moltmann’s latest book The Living God and the Fullness of Life about the distinction between joy and fun.

Just before this, Moltmann describes the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son as stories about God’s joy as seeker and finder. God delights in looking for and finding those who are lost, because “wherever they are, and for whatever reason, [the lost] belong to God.” Then he turns to our own joy, which is connected to what we’re seeking.

Real joy is a feeling about life, but fun is a superficial experience; joy is lasting and enduring, and puts its stamp on one’s whole attitude to life. Joy is fulfilled time; fun is short-lived and serves to pass the time, as they say. The feeling about life behind the party-making, fun society is probably boredom and a certain contempt for life. Real joy stimulates the soul, makes relationships flourish, makes the heart light and limbs nimble, mobilizes undreamed-of powers, and increases confidence. Genuine happiness lays hold of the person’s whole being. In joy, the ecstatic nature of human existence finds its true expression. We are made for joy. We are born for joy.

You’ve probably heard this before, this distinction between fun and joy. But in a society that spends billions of dollars enticing us to seek fun, to have fun, and to post pictures proving how much fun we’re having, it’s good to remind ourselves that fun is not the goal. Fun isn’t bad, of course. But it can be deceiving if it isn’t rooted in something else, if it has boredom lurking behind it, or worse, fear or anger or avoidance. Fun can be fun, or it can be empty distraction.

Joy is made of deeper, more resilient stuff. Joy can handle boring days and grieving days and broken days. Joy can be present everywhere, because joy is a feeling about life that isn’t dependent upon circumstances. This feeling about life comes from being found in God, being loved by God. God has found joy in finding us, and we find joy when we are found in God.

I love this phrase Joy is fulfilled time. I think I’ll be pondering that today as I spend time with my family and walk the dogs and make dinner. When time transforms from a tick-tick-tick to a fullness that is beyond our being, there joy can be found.

I pray wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you would find joy today. Or, perhaps more specifically, I pray you would recognize that Joy has already found you, if you would only see it.


P.S. A gaggle of us Moltmann groupies will be in Atlanta October 19-20 to hear Professor Moltmann speak at Candler School of Theology. If you want to join us, you can find out more information here.

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