What quality do some people spend their whole lives looking for, and others dedicate themselves to spreading? Some say happiness, but I say joy. Many people associate joy with happiness, and although they share similar effects, one fundamental difference separates the two. “Happiness” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” Happiness is dependant upon external variables and can therefore vanish in a moment. For example, a simple smile from a stranger can turn your day around, or your happiness can be replaced with sadness by the evening news. Joy, on the other hand, is a gift given by God. It is a state of the soul. Joy is the effect of believing that God has conquered sin and death, and that He will bring His faithful to Heaven to be with Him for eternity. We can understand and accept this with our minds, but for this reality to sink into our souls, we must ask for the grace. It’s as simple as that. We need to ask God for understanding and joy.
From the world’s perspective, we Christians live in contradiction. We are saddened by the horrors and hardships of this world, like human trafficking, murder, and divorce, but we still have joy of the soul. We have joy because of Christ’s Resurrection. We have joy because He has conquered death. We know that no matter what happens here on this earth, God is in control and only asks that we be faithful. Yes, these sins horrify us and compel us to do our best to bring God’s peace to our suffering world, but the problem is more than we can handle. God has already won the war. He just needs soldiers to fight the battles.
With this being said, we can still cultivate joy. Here are three ways:
1.) Pray for joy.
Simple enough. Also, try to keep God’s glory, power, and goodness in the front of your mind to remind you of the reason for your joy!
2.) Practice gratitude.
Christians are promised a life of joy if they love God and follow His commandments. More specifically, Christians are promised to live eternally with God. Joy is a gift of God and therefore, eternal life with God means eternal joy. With this knowledge and the tools to attain it, Christians are apt to strive toward Heaven, and therefore, toward joy. Atheists, however, can be joyful as well. Even if Atheists do not believe in God or the afterlife, they can be joyful through gratitude. Gratitude, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “a feeling of appreciation or thanks”. Christians believe that gratitude is owed to God and it should therefore be an abiding state of being in their lives. Gratitude, however, is also expressed toward other people, too, and so when Atheists feel gratitude, they are in a way participating in the joy of Christ even if they do not believe this is so.
3.) Look for role-models who are joyful and observe their habits.
Just as sunflowers are drawn to the sun, people are attracted to joy. Those men and women who have joy are surrounded by others who inadvertently try to soak up and bask in that joy. Joyful people are peaceful and have a quality to life that others do not have. Those most noted for leading joyful lives are the saints. The saints kept Christ in mind continually and were grateful even when circumstances seemed unbearable. And of course, they were joyful. These saints are the examples for those of us still on earth, striving for Heaven. Emulating the saints’ habits will bring joy.
God wants to fill us with joy! He created us so that we can be joyful for eternity! As Fr. Ben Luedke says, “We can begin Heaven or begin Hell here on earth.” Let’s begin Heaven. “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18