Joy to the World
We don’t often use the word joy in our everyday conversation, but it is part of the traditional landscape at this time of year. When you think of the word joy, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The experience of gladness? Happiness of heart? These are a part of what joy is, but not the whole picture. Joy is not only a feeling but a spiritual condition as well.
As Benjamin Franklin once concluded a stirring speech on the guarantees of the Constitution, a heckler shouted, “Aw, them words don’t mean nothin’ at all. Where’s all the happiness you say it guarantees us?” Franklin smiled and replied, “My friend, the Constitution only guarantees the right to pursue happiness; you have to catch it yourself.”
In a similar way we can choose to pursue joyfulness each day. There is much more to joy than happiness and gladness of heart. Joy can be a spiritual state that is a by-product of our faith in God.
Exploring our faith is one way that we can increase joy in our lives. In the Scriptures we find a metaphor that describes joy as a “fruit of the spirit.” Seeking to develop a closer connection with God cultivates this fruit. Daily prayer and meditation, reading sacred texts, and spending time outdoors or with others who share our faith convictions are just a few of the spiritual practices that can increase our faith and, subsequently, our joy.
Another way that we cultivate joy is by resting in God’s providence. We learn to trust in God regardless of our circumstances or situation. Even in the midst of sad times or disheartening events, joy can sustain as we strive to trust in a good God, who has good things in store for us, and who overcomes evil with good. When we choose to rely on a God whose ways are higher than our ways and whose understanding is greater than our own, joy can prevail.
At times joy can seem elusive, but it is never out of reach. There is a Zen story about a Buddhist monk who is fleeing from a hungry tiger. The monk comes to the edge of a cliff cutting off any hope of escape from the pursuing tiger.
Fortunately for the monk, a vine happens to be growing over the edge. He grabs hold of it and begins to climb down the cliff, out of the reach of the tiger, who is by now glaring at him from above.
But alas, as the monk is climbing down, he spies another tiger waiting for him below; circling impatiently at the bottom of the cliff. To make matters worse, out of the corner of his eye he notices a mouse on a ledge above him already beginning to gnaw through the vine. Then out of the corner of his other eye the monk sees a strawberry growing between the rocks. So he picks the strawberry and eats it.
Friends, let us choose to pick the strawberry and not the tiger. Let’s find the fruit of joy. Then let’s share the fruit of our joy with others around us.
Holiday Blessings to all!