The French call it joie de vivre—the “joy of living.” And it has been defined as the “exultation of spirit.” We’ve all experienced it in some measure—a beautiful day, a magnificent flower, the laughter of a child, the frolic of a dog, the hug of a loved one.
But, this zest for living can sometimes seem illusive as we go about the routine of our daily lives. Perhaps disappointment, past mistakes, or limiting circumstances have sapped our joy. Or, maybe, as some believe, it is built into our genes or chemistry that we’ll inevitably have times where we feel low. Others may wonder if it’s even possible to find real joy or happiness given the constant stress of human circumstances. Or if they do have joy, will they be able to hold on to it?
Many years ago, I learned from experience that we can defend ourselves from negative thoughts that try to remove our joy when I was healed of depression through Christian Science (see “The ‘Real’ in Relationships,” July 3, 2006, Christian Science Sentinel). Christian Science shows us that we are not helpless victims, and I took great comfort in knowing that joy is a spiritual quality that can never be taken away.
Christ Jesus certainly understood that joy is permanent. Though he experienced all the drama of material living, it didn’t affect the joy of his message and his life. In fact, Jesus told his disciples, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:10, 11). Later he tells them, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22).
This joy he spoke of that “no man” could take away, wasn’t just a little joy, but a full sense of joy. So where does this joy come from? Since Jesus looked to God as the source and condition of his whole experience, we know this joy to be divinely derived. And not only did Jesus abide in God’s love, but can’t we add, also in God’s joy? He lived in and taught from God’s joy! This joy was spiritual and therefore not dependent on any material circumstance—good or bad. Nothing could disturb it or pull it down.
Mary Baker Eddy discovered this, too. No stranger to experiencing disappointment, she wrote, “God is All, and in all: that finishes the question of a good and a bad side to existence. Truth is the real; error is the unreal. You will gather the importance of this saying, when sorrow seems to come, if you will look on the bright side; for sorrow endureth but for the night, and joy cometh with the light. Then will your sorrow be a dream, and your waking the reality, even the triumph of Soul over sense. If you wish to be happy, argue with yourself on the side of happiness; take the side you wish to carry, and be careful not to talk on both sides, or to argue stronger for sorrow than for joy. You are the attorney for the case, and will win or lose according to your plea” (Christian Healing, p. 10).
Not only did Jesus abide in God’s love, but can’t we add, also in God’s joy?
Does this mean trying to convince ourselves of something through mere positive thinking or imaging, or trying to muster up or create joy on our own when things are tough? No. But we may need to firmly argue on the side of joy when negative thoughts try to pull us down. And know that God not only gives us joy, he created us capable of holding on to it, so nothing can take our joy away. It’s not dependent on chemistry, genes, or circumstance. Joy is spiritual. It’s ours because we reflect divine Love, God. We do need to claim it.
This God-endowed joy lifts us out of self-pity to realize we are never actually separated from good. I had a small experience that proved this fact. One morning, I awoke feeling down in the dumps—like my joy had simply vanished. This was unusual for me, but someone close to me had recently passed on and my life felt a little bleak. As I stared down the path of feeling bad for myself, missing this person, I realized I had the choice to pray by arguing on the side of joy.
In my prayers, I firmly declared that my joy hadn’t gone anywhere. God was right there with me; He was everywhere. Therefore I knew my joy wasn’t dependent on any material situation, because the power of His joy was all around and nothing could attack it or pull it away from me. Just a little while later, I was back to my chipper self. This was more than a quick mood swing. I knew that by correctly realigning my thinking, my joy quickly returned.
In reality, it’s impossible for spiritual joy to be fleeting because it is the very essence of being. No matter what may be going on in your life, don’t despair. It’s possible to feel joy again. It’s your God-given heritage.
Val Minard is a Christian Science practitioner in Collingswood, New Jersey.