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Your right to be joyful

From the January 29, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

A while ago there was a debate among some of my friends on Facebook about expressing joy. Some said joy is a gift from God, so it’s right to express it regardless of the state of the world and the hardships some people are facing. Others argued it would be arrogant to smile and sing despite reports of human suffering; moreover, it would be callous to tell those who are suffering to just lighten up and be happy.

I found myself thinking about that debate one day when I was overwhelmed with anxiety about issues in my own life. When I feel this way, I often turn to God in prayer, which calms me down, lifts my thought spiritually, and helps me find healing solutions to problems. When I’m really obeying the First Commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), I can resist the inclination to be overcome with worry.

As I considered the spiritual basis for trusting God and letting go of fear, I also found my answer to the dilemma above, about whether it’s right to be joyful under all circumstances. And the answer is yes!

But let me back up and explain why.

The idea that it is cruel to ask people to be joyful is based on misconceptions that need to be corrected. The first mistake is assuming that man is a mortal being, separate from God, and is responsible for expressing joy all on his own. The truth Christian Science explains, and enables one to prove, is that man is not a self-created mortal, but the spiritual child of God, created in God’s image and likeness and inseparable from Him; and this is reason for joy under any circumstance. 

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, brings out this truth in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The sinless joy,—the perfect harmony and immortality of Life, possessing unlimited divine beauty and goodness without a single bodily pleasure or pain,—constitutes the only veritable, indestructible man, whose being is spiritual” (p. 76). In spiritual reality, man is joyous because he is always at one with God, who is all good and creates only good.

Man is joyous because he is always at one with God, who is all good and creates only good.

This brings up another misconception. Often it seems that we are asked to be happy despite adversity and suffering—that evil is all too real, yet we are expected to smile and carry on anyway. However, Christian Science presents a whole new view of joy—not as a response to favorable material circumstances, but as an irrepressible characteristic of our true, spiritual being. We are joyous because evil is ultimately unreal and God has given us dominion over it. 

In the first chapter of Genesis we read, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (verse 31). This is the fundamental fact of reality. Even though evil appears real to the material senses, its seeming presence and power is actually an illusion, a lie based on the false supposition that both Spirit and matter, good and evil, are real. 

Christian Science teaches us how to handle the lie and demonstrate evil’s unreality. Science and Health explains that evil “contradicts itself and has neither origin nor support in Truth and good. Seeing this, we should have faith to fight all claims of evil, because we know that they are worthless and unreal” (p. 529). 

We have the right to rejoice in the Lord, always, because we don’t live in an evil material universe but in the totally good, spiritual universe of God. We are always joyous because we are, in reality, always living in God’s harmonious presence, exempt from any material circumstance or suffering.

Not only is it right to be joyful in the face of suffering, but joy is a quality that brings healing. I can share two experiences where realizing I lived in God’s joyous, radiant presence lifted me out of suffering and brought healing. The first was in being freed from panic and anxiety attacks. While these did not come frequently, I would at times during the night be overwhelmed with panic or anxiety. But daily communion in prayer with God caused me to experience the harmony and joy of God’s presence and better understand my inseparability from Him and His perfect spiritual reality. I also came to realize that my natural spiritual state, the way God made me, was joyful, peaceful, and calm, not anxious or panic-ridden. This spiritual reality slowly became more and more real to me until I no longer suffered from the attacks.

More recently, when my mom passed away, I did not experience grief. I won’t say I was never sad, or that I don’t sometimes wish she were physically present with me as before. But I have continued to feel God’s love and care for me uninterruptedly and have been able to remain spiritually joyful, without sorrow or regret. Moreover, when I think of my mother, I feel only joy and gratitude for her great love for me and for all the time we did get to spend together.

Not only is it right to be joyful in the face of suffering, but joy is a quality that brings healing.

Joy is independent of and untouchable by evil, so we can be full of radiant, spiritual joy always. It’s everyone’s God-given right to be so, because in reality, nothing—no human condition or circumstance, however difficult—can ever separate us from God, who is the source of our joy. 

Suffering is not the natural condition of anyone, and, instead of letting the suffering of others bring us down to human misery, we can see them in their true being, as the joyous children of God, and help lift them out of their suffering and despair. That is what Jesus did and how he healed. He didn’t ignore misery. But by seeing each individual as a radiant, beloved, naturally joyous child of God, he healed and lifted people out of suffering. 

By expressing our God-given joy and dominion and seeing man as the joyous expression of God, we can do the same. And as Jesus promised in John 16:22, “Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”

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