I thought I’d do a different style of post today, I wouldn’t want to get entrenched in the same subjects all the time.
I want to talk about that elusive quality known as Joy.
I say known as, but if you google it, look it up in the dictionary or read about it, you’ll find that no two definitions of joy seem to be exactly the same.
C. S. Lewis thought Joy was a longing, or that a longing was how we experienced joy in this world.
Most people think of joy as some type of ecstasy.
The more practical of us think it is just another word for being contented with your life and your work and your family. (I am not using practical as a good thing in this instance.)
My guess is most of us don’t think about it at all, or not frequently if we do. I myself don’t give it as much consideration as I could.
To many people e, and I have felt this myself, joy seems to be a joke. Something people talk about but no one has found. If anyone claims they have, they are delusional. Maybe, we think, joy is just a delusion. Which is worse than an illusion.
We think joy only comes when we can forget our troubles, which we can’t, and that it is fleeting. Maybe we felt it at one time. It’s odd how it is such a strong feeling while it lasts, but it is so easy to forget once it’s gone.
It’s not like we’re left alone once the euphoria we think of as joy dies away. Trouble inevitably comes.
Now if you’re a Disney fan, perhaps your mind immediately went to Inside Out when I brought up Joy. I watched that movie once or twice, I had to give it credit for doing a good job of explaining joy and sadness. I’m gong to reference it in a second.
If there was no trouble in the world, we suppose, perhaps everyone could be joyful. Or I could be, but who can be happy knowing there is so much wrong going on.
The truly sad thing is most of us aren’t unhappy because of the sufferings of others, but because of our own problems. We could ignore the rest of the world if our world was fine. But the rest of the world affects our own, whether we like it or not.
In A Walk to Remember, the movie, Landon, when still pessimistic and bitter over his dad leaving, tells Jamie he has no faith because “There’s too much bad — in this world.” Jamie replies “Without suffering there would be no compassion.” Landon says “Tell that to those who suffer.” Jamie looks away. We later find out Jamie suffers plenty, and tries to stay cheerful and kind despite that.
However, I’ve never really bought that line that we need suffering for compassion, or rather, that we need to have compassion anyway, because if no one suffered, compassion would be useless. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe compassion is very important, but it is the compensation for suffering, not the reason for it.
The reason I went off about suffering is because there will be no discussion of joy if suffering is not dealt with too, even if I tried to leave it out, everyone would think of it anyway.
As is pointed out in both the book and the movie Pollyanna, the Lord tells us to rejoice over 800 times in his word. It would be hard to find a book of the bile where rejoicing was not mentioned in some form.
It’s a saying in the Church, though no any I’ve been to in my memory, that God wants you happy.
Many people have attacked this phrase because it’s used as an excuse to do whatever stupid thing you want in the name of happiness. Which it shouldn’t be.
But though God does not always want you happy, in the way you think of it, He does always want you to rejoice. He says so.
This is where we get to the big difference between joy and happiness.
In Inside Out, Joy starts off as what I would call happiness, a positive attitude, fun loving, goofy character who keeps all other emotions in check. Joy also avoids Sadness like the plague and always feels like Sadness is intruding on her turf, and complicating things. Sadness feel bad, but can’t seem to help herself, she knows that Riley needs her, but she doesn’t know for what .
But after some really sad stuff happens to their kid, Riley, Joy finds it harder and harder to keep control, and eventually she ends up lost, along with Sadness. Sending Riley into a crisis.
The big moment at the end of the movie is where Joy finally feels sad, which seems oxymoronic, but it helps her to see what she needs to do. Sadness finally is able to help Riley, and a new kind of feeling if forged, the bittersweet sort, Joy and Sadness mingled.
Which is the type of feeling C. S. Lewis called Joy. A deep sadness that it is happy to feel. Another oxymoron.
True Joy comes only when happiness has been baptized in sadness. Bapitized is kind of a religious word, but it means a thing has to be purified, usually be dying to itself, and then being reborn as a newer, better version of itself. (Basically what the idea of reincarnation tries to accomplish and fails because it uses the wrong kind of dying and rebirth.)
In other words, you will not have joy until you have accepted sadness and grief and allowed them to make you a bigger, better, kinder person; because let’s be honest, we all know people who won’t ever cry or admit they’re not dong so hot, and they are often the least compassionate people of all.
Or we may be that person, and that’s what bothers us.
The heart of Joy is to overcome suffering. Not sorrow, which is where we get confused, sorrow is good in the right amounts, but suffering if only good when we treat it properly, and that involves pursuing joy even through suffering.
I can get more into this in my next post, until then–Natasha.