Silent Shouts of Joy
Remember thy Lord in thy soul, humbly and fearfully, not loud of voice, at morn and eventide. [Quran 7:205].
Where can we find real joy — joy that is lasting and completely satisfying?
To be always joyous is not to feel happy all the time, but to have an inner peace that maintains a constant smile in our heart.
When you have become penetrated with the joy of God, all of your sorrows will turn into joy, all of your trials will be graces; you will recognize your faults, you will be sorry for them, and they will be forgiven so that they may become happy faults. They will remind you only of the goodness, the tenderness, the joy with which God forgives them. [Louis Evely, in Living by the Fruit of the Spirit by Don M. Aycock, p. 38].
Emotions are such fragile things. A comment, song, a photo, a passing fragrance can quickly change our state of mind, producing sadness or happiness. To experience true joy, we need a deeper consciousness that is not so easily distracted or so readily captivated.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14:17].
Our joy must be immune to sudden, temporary and whimsical fancies. It cannot come from being dazzled by a celebrity or enchanted by technological wonders.
Are there not periods of life when we feel so glad that we would dance for joy? Let not such exhilaration be spent upon common themes, but let the name of God stir us to ecstasy…. There is enough in our holy faith to create and to justify the utmost degree of rapturous delight. If men are dull in the worship of the Lord our God they are not acting consistently with the character of their religion. [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Psalms, p. 374].
Our contentment cannot be arbitrary or irrational. Our state of mind cannot depend on the capricious changing of media channels.
The reality of our joy cannot vacillate between comedy and drama, or sports and news.
I cannot understand why those who have given themselves up to God and His goodness are not always cheerful, for what possible happiness can be equal to that? No accidents or imperfections which may happen ought to have power to trouble them, or to hinder their looking upward. [Francis de Sales, Letters, p. 152].
Remembrance of God
We do not find happiness by avoiding unpleasantness, poverty or hardships. Joy is not the absence of difficulties or the presence of affluence. True satisfaction is not an emotion evoked by physical conditions, by material success or by worldly possessions.
Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God. [Robert Schuller].
Ceaseless remembrance of the Divine Reality shields our inner consciousness from being beguiled by trivial amusement and transient pleasure.
When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. [Psalm 63:6-8].
Not a Secret
A miserable, chronically joyless life reflects a mind that has forgotten the Divine Reality. Remembrance of God liberates us from gloom and depression. It is a foretaste of God’s promise of peace and joy that we can relish in the present.
Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be light-hearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, merry. Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration. And so I urge you to enjoy this ministry of self-surrender. [Richard J. Foster, Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, pp. 120-1].
At times, we may actually choose to be miserable, as an option that wins us pity from others or as misguided self-affliction to show repentance. When we avoid joy by choice, we are indulging in egocentric mutilation of our soul, not in trying to please our Lord.
… and this [is] the secret of joy. We shall no longer strive for our own way; but commit ourselves, easily and simply, to God’s way, acquiesce in His will, and in so doing find our peace. [Lent with Evelyn Underhill, p. 83].
Inner peace and complete rest require that we reconcile our compassion and love with the injustice and suffering that appears to envelop the world. Our certainty that justice and mercy ultimately prevail under Divine sovereignty must relieve our grief and ease our pain.
Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life. [Paul Sailhamer, in Donald E. Anderson, Keep the Fire!, p. 191].
We must remember that our joy rests on consciousness of the Divine Reality. Physical pleasures and material comforts are secondary, since true pleasure comes only when the Divine is present in our thoughts.
. . . when the spirit is enraptured with the pleasure of observation, the tongue keeps silence, eyes are closed and ears no longer receive sounds; everything is voiced with the tongue of the heart. Pure thoughts and feelings envelop man as vapour of joy and excitement, and, in the face of such dazzling spectacles, the spirit feels as if walking in gardens of paradise. [Fethullah Gülen].
To find the peace and contentment we seek, we must change planes. We must disembark and enter a new dimension. Our current reality does not contain what we are looking for.
For there is a joy which is not given to the ungodly, but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake, whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this is it, and there is no other. For they who think there is another, pursue some other and not the true joy. [St. Augustine, Confessions, Ch. 22].
May God forgive our selfish desires. May He open our hearts to true joy, and may He, alone, be our contentment.
… He guides unto Himself all who turn unto Him — those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for, verily, in the remembrance of God hearts do find their rest. [Quran 13:27-28].