Joy in Our Daily Thoughts
What are the rewards of the devoted servants of God who pray late into the night, observe all religious obligations, fast often, avoid worldly temptations, and engage in frequent spiritual exercises?
Having avoided the pitfalls of transient reality, and persevered in worshiping God, do they hope that their efforts will bring material rewards. Do they expect a life more physically pleasant and enjoyable?
Should they not reap material rewards for their manifested piety? Or, should they only look forward to celestial compensation, happiness in the hereafter?
… and so it is that they who attain to faith and do righteous deeds are destined for happiness [in this world] and the most beauteous of all goals [in the life to come]! [Quran 13:29].
If the purpose of our devotions includes material prosperity and physical comforts, do we need to reevaluate our intentions? If we think that regularly scheduling abstinence, privately documenting kindness and constant efforts at piety are the only basis for Divine pleasure, should we redefine our understanding of a spiritual life?
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion … is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. [C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, p. 1]
Daily Bread of Eternal Truth
How then are true believers compensated for a pious life? Is it a contradiction to seek material rewards for our faith? Can satisfaction of physical needs be part of our “wages,” to be enjoyed here and now?
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favour that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace make you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. [Martin Luther].
By renouncing material comforts, worldly ambitions and our very self, we hope to attain a higher awareness of what is “joy.” We seek to rise above secular illusions and deceptive enticements, to partake of a daily dose of eternal Truth.
A beam of God’s countenance is enough to fill the heart of a believer to overflowing. It is enough to light up the pale cheek of a dying saint with seraphic brightness, and make the heart of the lone widow sing for joy. [Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Sermons, p. 116].
Daily Dose of Divine Grace
Can we find joy, satisfaction and contentment even in grief and pain? Is there any shelter from the sorrow of regret and despair?
Daily we experience events that support our trust in the Divine, that prove God cares for us and protects us. They are fruits of our faith, providing spiritual joy contentment. They mold our attitude. They transform loneliness into solitude, pain into sacrifice, and grief into patience.
I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord …when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord … Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord. [Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1st Week, 3rd Rule].
Suffering permeates existence, but we have found an internal resource that provides security and comfort. Our faith offers a place of refuge in adversity and a place of celebration in prosperity.
Seek, as a plain duty, to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life. Take full account of all the pains, all the bitter ingredients, remembering that for us weak and sinful men the bitter is needful. [Alexander MacLaren].
When we experience hardship, we find consolation and contentment in prayer and worship. When we receive blessings, we find expression of our gratitude in gratitude and praise.
Grace is available for each of us every day – our spiritual daily bread – but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow. [Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance, p. 29 ].
Every Day a Resurrection
Our spiritual exercises do indeed bring rewards that make our life more pleasant and enjoyable. However, it is not a product of our imagination or willpower, but solely from the grace and mercy of God.
Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God’s goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new-created upon your account: and under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a Creator. [William Law, Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life].
By maintaining our connection to God, we reap a constant harvest of contentment that we peacefully consume to full satisfaction. In our private spiritual domain, we delight in intimate knowledge of God, where we feast on true joy.
… extol thy Sustainer’s limitless glory and praise Him before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and extol His glory, too, during some of the hours of the night as well as during the hours of the day, so that thou might attain to happiness. [Quran 20:130].