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Surprised By Joy

Surprised by Joy

Great stories always encounter overwhelming obstacles and challenges, but somehow in the end we find a new hope and we can be surprised by joy. This is not only in first world countries or in western culture. It is universal. Why? Because the human heart was made with a homing device, which longs for the truth of a savior who redeems the worst of us, and conquers the most daunting evil in this world. These stories resonate with our very soul because they echo the truth of the Gospel. He is Risen!

In remembrance of what Christ did, I want to invite you to sit quietly in the garden with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt 28:1). Imagine mourning the death of a loved one, walking in the early morning to grieve and pray, feeling alone without Jesus. And then, mysteriously, the earth began to shake, a brilliant light now emanating from the Angel, and the overwhelming sense of wonder, mystery and awe overcame these women. It was startling. It was unsettling. It was unforgettable.


Disbelief turned to hope,
Mourning turned to rejoicing,
Sorrow was traded for joy,
Death was conquered by the giver of life.

This mystery of joy that comes after mourning, repeats over and over in this life. It is a supernatural rhythm within the heart and soul of one who has fallen in love with Jesus Christ. Though you have times of mourning, we are given the promise that it will be followed by times of refreshing. Sorrow will be followed by joy afresh. Though you had doubts, you will become emboldened by hope as you cling to the goodness of the Father.

Personal Implications

This same power that brought a blinding light, which overpowered the guards and changed history is not some foreign power. It is at work in your heart and soul. It is no mere myth. It is the very power of God. Consider the words of Paul to Christians in Rome:

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
– Romans 8:11

The mystery of life, hope and joy is at work as God’s Spirit works within you. God isn’t finished with you, with your life, or with your art. God isn’t finished fueling your passion to explore the mysteries of life and faith. In truth those mysteries are His invitation to your curiosity. They beckon you to keep pursuing Him, exploring your faith in every aspect of life. The resurrection is why you can embrace hope in your creative endeavors as well as your relationships.

Loving God with Abandon

As creatives made in the Image of God, redeemed from the pit, we are free to live and create with abandon. The disciples loved God with abandon after the resurrection. They refused to back down despite beatings, prison, torture, and death. The love of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit within them fueled their faith. They refused to “phone it in,” or live half-hearted.

As we read their stories and imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus die and then rise again, we can begin to see why they loved God with abandon. Your calling as a creative is also a calling to create with abandon. Christians should never be the ones playing it safe in our creative works or being content to follow others. The God of all creation has redeemed us and placed his Holy Spirit within us. Should not our hearts be stirred and our creativity reflect a power and imagination unlike our non-Christian colleagues?

Create with Passion

If the disciples went from fearful to fearless (in light of the resurrection) what does that mean for us as creatives? Should we not create with that same passion? This is where God calls us to live as His children. He died to take the shame and guilt away, so that we could create with passion.

Don’t hold back your love for God because you don’t know where he will lead you. Don’t be startled when life throws you a curve ball. God is always with you and the only one who will never fail you. These women were startled as they came to an open grave, but as they looked closer they saw God had already done more than they had asked or dreamed. What initially startled them and concerned them became the very thing that brought them joy and hope in the end.

Enjoy New Life, and New Inspiration

Christ came to make all things new. He has redeemed our lives from the pit. He has put His Spirit within us. He has given us a new heart, and we have become transformed by the renewing of our mind. It only makes sense that this should transform our art because it transforms our creative desires and our imagination.

If we once embraced the hip, dark ideas of our colleagues in academic programs, we should now jettison them in order to reflect the transformation of our life. Not that we avoid dark subjects, but that we explore them in light of the resurrection.

Embrace Mystery

Too often we want to tie things up in a nice, neat box, but God never fits in our boxes. He is always surprising us in new ways and challenging us to let go of our preconceived notions. Our mortal minds cannot fathom the depths of God’s love, nor the mysterious grandeur of His plans.

Mystery is an invitation by God to realize our finiteness and to stand in awe at the grandeur of His creation and His love. This curiosity drives us to discover what is true, good and beautiful. It leads us in the way of enjoying life, creating great art, and growing in our love for God. Such curiosity is part of what makes us human.

Curiosity and mystery are handmaidens of our faith. When the aroma of the Holy Spirit awakens our imagination, we cannot help but follow the scent. We see shadows, symbols, and through a glass dimly in this world today. Yet, we long to understand what is beyond the veil. We crave insight into the essence which these mere symbols and shadows echo.

Your Invitation

The God who gifted you with artistic insight, creative impulses, and a desire to express new and innovative ideas, is the same God inviting you today to explore the mystery of your relationship with Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but our knowledge of him is merely a hint of His grandeur. We cannot fathom how great his love is for us. Remember Paul’s exhortation to the believers in Ephesus:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” – Ephesians 3:17-18

As we reflect on Resurrection Sunday, living in the joy of life after death, may we never grow tired of striving to understand, adore, and worship the King. May we be inspired by Him and His love every day. And may His inspiration lead us to create art, film, video games, and all kinds of art, so that we may profoundly speak life to those who are lost.

They may visit a gallery instead of a sanctuary.
They may visit a theatre instead of a bible study.
They may play a video game instead of reading a devotional.

With that in mind, please let me know…

How does Christ’s triumph over death give you hope in your life and in your art?

How will your art reflect the joy of new life after the Resurrection? (implicitly or explicitly)

Have you thought of this idea before?

How can you express the mysterious beauty of the Resurrection to a new generation in a way no one has ever done before?

Share down below, I look forward to responding to your answers.


Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

8 comments on “Surprised By Joy”

  1. Carol Caffrey Reply

    I just have to respond to one more of your messages. Again, your message has been a great inspiration to me, an inspiration to keep on creating art and asking God to speak to others through my art. Thank you for all the encouragement.

  2. Leonardo Ramirez Reply

    His resurrection gives me hope in the promise that what He begins, He will finish. To me, this means not just his work in us but what is created through us. That’s a promise that is as sure as His resurrection and one He will not abandon. I also love the thought of curiosity and mystery being handmaidens in our faith. I love to document my dreams and started doing so a couple of years ago when the pandemic started. And because I believe that He speaks to us through them, it’s been fun unraveling not just a mystery of connected themes but of story ideas as well. And they all point to Him.

    • Joel Pelsue Reply


      Love your line, “this means not just his work in us but what is created through us.”

      What a beautiful picture of God working through us in the creative process!


  3. Wendy Reply

    Dear Joel and Michelle,
    I trust that you and your family had a wonderful Easter. Thank you for this writing Joel. You have such a wonderful way of keeping perspective while encouraging us to be genuine as artists who seek to be quiet conduits of His love.

  4. Louann Reply

    This is a wonderful insight full article and I am freshly inspired to paint in collaboration with the Holy Spirit
    And may the Lord be glorified

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