Meditations on joy as the third theme during Advent

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in You, a joy. — Rumi 

We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy. ― Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy

Our perspective toward life is our final and ultimate freedom. — Viktor Frankl

As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. — Douglas Carlton AbramsThe Book of Joy

We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people.— Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

SONGS about JOY:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor…
Welcome and entertain them all.
Treat each guest honorably.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Rumi

ARTICLES & VIDEOS about CULTIVATING JOY:

JOY— Maurine Smith
Joy, joy, run over me,
Like water running over a shining stone;
And I beneath your sweet shall be
No longer hungry and alone.
The light at my heart’s gate is lit—
My love, my love, is tending it!


BLIND JOY  John Frederick Nims
Crude seeing’s all our joy: could we discern
The cold dark infinite vast where atoms burn
—Lone suns—in flesh, our treasure and our play,
Who’d dare to breathe this fern-thick bird-rich day? 


JOY  (excerpt)— Alan Shapiro
What never comes when called.
          What hides when held.
Guest
          most at home where least
                      expected.
Vagrant
balm of Gilead.
          What, soon as here,
                      becomes
the body’s native ground and,
         soon as not,its banishment. … 

MUSINGS on JOY

I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. 
       … Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon. You are still going to live a long time, … and it would be a shame if you did not take the opportunity to revolutionize your life and move into an entirely new realm of experience.
      You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.
      My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. — Jon Krakauer


What is this thing called joy, and how is it possible that it can evoke such a wide range of feelings? How can the experience of joy span from those tears of joy at a birth to an irrepressible belly laugh at a joke to a serenely contented smile during meditation? Joy seems to blanket this entire emotional expanse. Paul Ekman, famed emotions researcher and longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, has written that joy is associated with feelings as varied as: pleasure (of the five senses) amusement (from a chuckle to a belly laugh) contentment (a calmer kind of satisfaction) excitement (in response to novelty or challenge) relief (following upon another emotion, such as fear, anxiety, and even pleasure) wonder (before something astonishing and admirable) ecstasy or bliss (transporting us outside ourselves) exultation (at having accomplished a difficult or daring task) radiant pride (when our children earn a special honor) unhealthy jubilation or schadenfreude (relishing in someone else’s suffering) elevation (from having witnessed an act of kindness, generosity, or compassion) gratitude (the appreciation of a selfless act of which one is the beneficiary). — Douglas Carlton Abrams


When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world. — Brother Steindl-Rast cited by Douglas Carlton Abrams, The Book of Joy


Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another. ― Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy

The Language of Joy — Jacqueline Allen Trimble 
Black woman joy is like this:
Mama said one day long before I was born
she was walking down the street,
foxes around her neck, their little heads
smiling up at her and out at the world
and she was wearing this suit she had saved up
a month’s paycheck for after it called to her so seductively
from the window of this boutique. And that suit
was wearing her, keeping all its promises
in all the right places. Indigo. Matching gloves.
Suede shoes dippity-do-dahed in blue.
With tassels! Honey gold. And, Lord, a hat
with plume de peacock, a conductor’s baton that bounced
to hip rhythm. She looked so fine she thought
Louis Armstrong might pop up out of those movies
she saw as a child, wipe his forehead and sing
ba da be bop oh do de doe de doe doe.
And he did. Mama did not sing but she was
skiddly-doing that day,and the foxes grinned, and she grinned
and she was the star of her own Hollywood musical
here with Satchmo who had called Ella over and now they were all
singing and dancing like a free people up Dexter Avenue,
and don’t think they didn’t know they were walking in the footsteps
of slaves and over auction sites and past where old Wallace
had held onto segregation like a life raft, but this
was not that day. This day was for foxes and hip rhythm
and musical perfection and folks on the street joining in the celebration
of breath and holiness. And they did too. In color-coordinated ensembles,
they kicked and turned and grinned and shouted like church
or football game, whatever their religious preference. The air
vibrated with music, arms, legs, and years of unrequited
sunshine. Somebody did a flip up Dexter Avenue.
It must have been a Nicholas Brother in a featured performance,
and Mama was Miss-Lena-Horne-Dorothy-Dandridge
high-stepping up the real estate, ready for her close-up.
That’s when Mama felt this little tickle. She thought
it might be pent-up joy, until a mouse squirmed out
from underneath that fine collar, over that fabulous fur,
jumped off her shoulder and ran down the street.
Left my mama standing there on Dexter Avenue in her blue
suit and dead foxes. And what did Mama do?
Everybody looking at her, robbed by embarrassment?
She said, “It be like that sometimes,” then she and Satchmo,
Ella, and the whole crew jammed their way home.

JOY 
— Stuart Kestenbaum
The asters shake
from stem to flower
waiting for the monarchs to alight. 
Every butterfly knows
that the end is different
from the beginning 
and that it is always a part
of a longer story, in which
we are always transformed.
When it’s time to fly,
you know how,
just the way you knew how to breathe,
just the way the air
knew to find its way into your lungs, 
the way the geese know when to depart,
the way their wings know how
to speak to the wind,
a partnership of feather and glide,
lifting into the blue dream. 

PRAYER for JOY 
— Stuart Kesterbaum
What was it we wanted
to say anyhow, like today
when there were all the letters
in my alphabet soup and suddenly
the ‘j’ rises to the surface.
The ‘j’, a letter that might be
great for Scrabble, but not really
used for much else, unless
we need to jump for joy,
and then all of a sudden
it’s there and ready to
help us soar and to open up
our hearts at the same time,
this simple line with a curved bottom,
an upside down cane that helps
us walk in a new way into this
forest of language, where all the letters
are beginning to speak,
finding each other in just
the right combination
to be understood.

STRUGGLES, SUFFERING & JOY: Sometimes It’s Hard to Access Joy

Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy


Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities. — Fred Rogers 


‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate. — John Green


Joy: A Defiant Sermon — Chinglican at Table
The Third Sunday of Advent is … the day to light the pink candle. It is not without reason that this Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday when the readings, the music, the church decorations, and even the pink candle are supposed to be gaudy. It’s supposed to be a party, a day of joy …
      If only we could.Are we even allowed to light the pink candle and be gaudy … when we have endured…accounts of violence worldwide… horrors … immediately … politicized…
      No. We are not joyful. We are not even pretending to be. We have had enough … But what do we say—indeed, what can we say? …
      …. The Gospel tells us that the crowds asked John the Baptizer, ‘What shall we do?’  The crowds asked John the Baptizer what they should do…. Does John give the socially and politically conservative answer, that what is simply needed is a conversion of the individual heart … because the central problem of personal repentance has not been solved? Does John give the concerned parental response, that the private sphere is under threat … that public safety will soon be a myth … and that for the sake of our children, we must enact some policy … Does John give the ‘I have no words to say’ sermon, a reflection on mystery in the midst of grief, that God weeps with the wretched of the earth but really has nothing better to do than to cry with you as you are terrorized?
      No. None of the above. In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality…  
       In the midst of such colonization, terror, and violence, John’s answer is a call to radical hospitality… John’s call to action is cryptic. It is as if in the midst of the senseless violence in both first-century Palestine and the twenty-first century globalized world, John is calling us to a defiant hospitality. In the midst of violence, the Church defies the common sense … that we need to batten down the hatches … No, John says, we open our doors wider.
      
John the Baptizer is saying what our other readings for Gaudete Sunday are saying.  Rejoice, St. Paul says, again I say it, rejoice, because hope against hope, sending your petitions with thanksgiving to God, the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and defies the common sense of anxiety in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Rejoice, the prophets Zephaniah and Isaiah say, for God is our savior from our enemies, he has removed our judgment, he sings over us now as songs are sung at festivals.  Rejoice.  Be hospitable.  Open wide your gates, daughter of Zion.
 These acts of joy run counter to our feelings of horror, despair, anger, and rage … He is coming, John says, but as we look forward to his return, he isn’t back yet.  So yes, we should grieve at this present darkness. … Yes, we should have no words to say to explain the horror.  Yes, do be angry, rage at the senselessness. But as the people of God, in our sorrow and in our anger, in our disbelief at the level of injustice … we also defy … we declare with our actions that this is indeed a time to act, but with the radical acts of hospitality, to let our rejoicing not be empty words, but shocking deeds of expansive welcome to the stranger, solidarity with the hungry and the naked … we rejoice defiantly by flinging open our hearts and our doors to welcome the stranger and love our neighbour.

ADDITIONAL FAITH-BASED COMMENTARIES on JOY

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy (excerpt) — Kelly Wise Valdes

      …People often confuse joy with happiness, but they are not interchangeable. Joy is from within, regardless of what is going on around you. Happiness can be a blurred emotion, dependent on a situation. Joyful people make a commitment to gratitude regardless of the circumstances.
      In Greek, the word for joy is ‘chara.’ This describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. This inner gladness leads to a cheerful heart and a cheerful heart leads to cheerful behavior.
      The most important attribute of joy is that you can find joy in adversity.


Top 7 Inspirational Bible Verses About Joy with Commentary (excerpt) — Jack Wellman, Patheos.org       

Is the joy of the Lord your strength?  How can you have joy in your walk with God?  What does the Bible define as joy?
  What is Joy? … While happiness is temporary and is based upon happenings, joy is from the Lord and you can still experience joy during trials, suffering, and testing. Joy is permanent but happiness is fleeting.

Hebrews 12:2 “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus experienced joy but it was also a focus for Him while He suffered excruciatingly on the cross. In fact, the root word for excruciating is the crucifixion. Joy can help you endure suffering too … God is the true source of lasting joy. Happiness is of human origin and is fleeting.

James 1:2-3 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 

…  joy can help us endure trials and suffering. The word for “count” as we are too “Count it all joy” is from the Greek word “hēgeomai” which means to lead or go before or to be a leader so our joy, which is from God, will go before our suffering … joy will come during and after our suffering too.

First Peter 1:8-9 “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”      

… If joy is inexpressible, then how can I describe what is indescribable? …

John 16:22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, the disciples were full of anxiety because they were feeling like orphans.  Jesus acknowledged their sorrow for now, but when they see Him again, a resurrected Jesus, they will leap for joy and this joy will remain with them … you can put your own name in where it says “you” because Jesus was not just talking to the disciples but also to you and to me.

First Thessalonians 2:19-20 “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul was so joyful and this seems ironic because he suffered like none of the other disciples did.  Why was his joy so abounding? …

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

The Lord is our source of strength ultimately because human joy lasts only for a time but what comes from the Lord is eternal and this includes Joy.  The psalmist stated that his heart, the seat of the intellect in the Jewish genre, leaped for joy and that made him break out in songs of praise.  Ever felt that way? …

Isaiah 12:6 “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Scroll to top