Joy is awesome. We all love it, right? Wouldn’t it be great to live every moment in a spirit of joy?
Where do we get it? What is a true source of joy? It seems to me that material joys–luxuries and novelties, fame and fortune–are fleeting at best. I learned this as a child anticipating and experiencing Christmas (and I frankly admit that for my family Christmas was almost wholly a material experience). Oh, the sleepless night before the glorious morning! Then the breath-taking JOY of the avalanche of presents and goodies! It seemed to never end. But then it did. And there was a bit of let-down–but THEN it was time for the feast and the family and playing with new stuff, new clothes… and then… and then… bedtime and, yes, disappointment, anti-climax. All the fun was done. By the time I was a pre-adolescent I had secretly concluded that Christmas, as a material event, was not productive of much true joy. (Believe me, I am not commenting here on the Birth of Christ, which is, in my view, totally unrelated to the commercial aspects of Christmas.)
My experience of other material joys has mirrored this “goodie-based” Christmas experience pretty closely–new cars, new electronics, good jobs, travel, recognition, admiration, all pass and leave one feeling.. a bit empty afterwards. Even beautiful life events such as marriage and children, if one focuses on the material aspects (the ring! the wedding! the dress! the baby clothes! that lovely baby!) can disappoint in the end. They take work, and goodness knows they are not glamorous.
So what is joy really and where do we get it? How can we make it last?
Here, in no particular order, are some things that the Bahá’í Writings tell us bring joy:
- Knowledge: “In truth, knowledge is a veritable treasure for man, and a source of glory, of bounty, of joy, of exaltation, of cheer and gladness unto him.”
- Reading the Sacred Verses: “To read one verse, or even one word, in a spirit of joy and radiance, is preferable to the perusal of many Books.”
- Death! Can you believe it?!: “I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve?” Also: “Death proffereth unto every confident believer the cup that is life indeed. It bestoweth joy, and is the bearer of gladness. It conferreth the gift of everlasting life.”
- Being invited to a party: “Whensoever ye be invited to a banquet or festive occasion, respond with joy and gladness, and whoever fulfilleth his promise will be safe from reproof.”
- Friendliness and fellowship: “It is permitted that the peoples and kindreds of the world associate with one another with joy and radiance. O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”
- This Day: “This is the Day of great rejoicing. It behooveth everyone to hasten towards the court of His nearness with exceeding joy, gladness, exultation and delight and to deliver himself from the fire of remoteness.”
- Being heard by God: “Rejoice with great joy inasmuch as thy call hath ascended unto the Divine Lote-Tree and is answered from the all-glorious Horizon.”
- Service: “Verily, We say: The soul is gladdened by goodly deeds and profiteth from the contributions made in the path of God.”
There are many, many other quotes we could peruse, but we can see the theme here, right? It is the spiritual world that brings us joy, closeness to God, and being our true selves. Further, as every child in grade 1 of the children’s classes can tell us, “Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.”
Joy really is awesome.