Where does joy come from?
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he says, “You became imitators of us and the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1Th. 1:6)
Joy comes from the Holy Spirit. In Galatians, Paul includes joy in a list of attributes which he says is the fruit of the Spirit. It takes the Spirit of God to give us real and lasting joy – not just the emotion of momentary happiness, but the kind of joy that comes from the confidence of knowing we are loved by God and serve his purpose even though we may be suffering trials in the present moment.
Peace is a close cousin of joy. It, too, is part of the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit. The same pre-conditions are necessary – love of God, faith in his love of us, and having purpose that fulfills God’s will.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says our joy will be complete if we obey his commands. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10)
In recent weeks my wife, through her daily prayer, believed that she was sensing a nudge by the Lord to attend the March for Life that took place on the National Mall last Friday. She signed up to join a group of people from our local church who had chartered a bus to attend the March.
What impressed her most about the march was the joy of the people and how peaceful it was. Here you had up to a half million people, shoulder to shoulder, jammed into a fenced-in area on the mall and then the confines of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues, proceeding from the Mall to the Supreme Court. The mood was joyful, and people were considerate and willing to help one another. They were unified in their desire to uphold the dignity and sanctity of life. Many had traveled thousands of miles to be there, a number on bus trips of more than 20 hours.
Like my wife, most people were there because they sensed that it was God’s will for them. They were blessed by hearing inspiring speakers, and by being in solidarity with tens of thousands of others in a cause larger than themselves. Equally important, they experienced the joy and satisfaction of knowing that their presence and sacrifice was pleasing to God.
Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. I always do what pleases him.” (John 8: 28, 29)
Great reminder of the enduring gift of Christian joy as opposed to fleeting nature of personal happiness. Only Christianity gives coherence to life in all situations.
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