One of my most precious memories is pushing my four-year-old nephew in a wheelbarrow on a farm. He was laughing hysterically and this made me laugh. Life is full of joyful moments like that one. Reflecting on them warms the heart. We feel joy when someone does us a favor, when we accomplish a difficult task, when we know we are loved, when we eat a satisfying meal, when we help a person, and when we are in the company of a good friend. Sometimes beholding an awesome feature in nature fills us with joy: a spectacular sunset, a perfect red rose, a fawn asleep on the lawn, ocean waves.
Benedictine Demetrius Dumm defines joy as “a kind of exuberant awareness that all is well; it bubbles up from a deep sense of confidence and peace.” When we are right with God, we know this kind of lasting, deep-down joy. After all, God made us for himself and planned that we have an eternal life of perfect happiness. We get hints of this happiness here below.
Joy is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual fruits are signs that God is alive in us and working in us. At the last supper Jesus said to his disciples, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). Some wit explained that when you put nothing O between Jesus (J) and You (Y), you have JOY. In Scripture we pray, “My joy lies in being close to God” (Psalm 73:28). The closer we are to God, the more we will rejoice. Even as we endure the vicissitudes of life that are bound to come, we will still have “confidence and peace.”
One of my favorite Scripture passages is Habakkuk 3:17-18:
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The joy I’m writing about here is not the ephemeral happiness that comes with winning the lottery or owning a hundred pairs of shoes. It is a lasting joy.
Radiating this kind of spiritual joy is one of the best strategies to drawing other people to God. They might wonder what your secret is for being so calm and happy.
Proverbs 17:22 gives this advice: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”
May you always have a joyful heart!
• What experiences have brought you joy?
In case you haven’t heard the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for awhile, here is a foot-tapping, finger-snapping version: