I’m never far away from a grin. The happy just kind of creeps out across my cheeks and up into my eyes. Very much like Buddy the elf, smiling’s my favorite.
In high school, I apparently looked so bubbly that the JROTC instructor asked if I was a believer. When I answered in the affirmative, he responded, “Anyone who smiles that much has to know God’s on His throne.” Little did I know I had encountered a profound bit of theology.
If I could transport myself to any fictional event, Bilbo’s birthday party would be high up on my wish list. The lights, the dancing, the food, the fireworks, and the one-of-a-kind speech. Hobbits know how to have a good time, and festival atmospheres characterize their rhythm of life. Jokes fill the air. Typically grumpy elders let down their guard and join in the fun. Here, under the lanterns, uninhibited community is built in a strikingly unique way.
Buried in the Old Testament’s prophecies about rebellion, judgment, and the wrath of God is a beautiful bit of hope. In my favorite verse of all time, Zephaniah shouts, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
As a perfectionistic performance addict who has always found the concept that God doesn’t merely tolerate me difficult to swallow, I was drawn to the phrase, “He will rejoice over you” and decided to study it. The Hebrew used for “rejoice” is the word sus (like Dr. Seuss). Although it may seem doubtful that one tiny term can make much of a difference in understanding the Bible as a whole, watch as it reveals the God who holds both justice and mercy in His hands.