Everyone in this world wants to be happy, but not everyone understands or knows what it means to have joy. Everyone wants to be fulfilled and satisfied, but there are too many who always feel anxious, unfulfilled, negative and without joy. Everyone wants to be a blessing to others, yet not many people know what it means to be joyful. So, it begs the question, how can we find joy?
As Christians, in order for us to find joy, we need hope. Nevertheless, our hope is not just something that we say that we wish for; it is the sure and certain desire of goodness and everlasting joy. It is like a well-packaged gift given to us now by the Almighty, but it takes time to unwrap and understand, which will one day culminate with the beatific vision and eternal life with God. Without hope, there is no true joy because we constantly run and keep searching for meaningless matters or people to temporarily satisfy or fulfill us. Without hope, joy becomes mundane and toxic as we engage in fake relationships of codependency, control, or manipulation in order to get what we want at all costs. Without hope, we become cynical, mistrustful of love and truth, as well as filled with vindictiveness and bitterness. Without hope and joy, we drift through life meaninglessly, just trying to find someone or something to numb the lonely pains deep from within.
It is important to also understand that true joy is not euphoria, which is only a momentary emotional or sentimental high of feeling good. It is humanly impossible to be sentimentally or emotionally high all the time! One cannot be an addict who is always dependent, angry, frustrated, and resentful trying to chase after that initial high feeling that numbed the human pains and took them away from reality for a short time. Much of life is not on the high rise or based on constant happiness, it is lived in the midst of many ups and downs, yet always remain joyful. True joy is not based on something grandeur or majestic, constantly making us feel emotionally driven and sentimentally satisfactory, it is often found in small, ordinary, simple moments in knowing how blessed we are and how much we have. It is the recognition of the blessings in the “what is” instead of “what should be”! It is a simple, but greatest, and loving joy of being able to be content with childlike happiness instead of the typical greedy or unsatisfactory demands of what should be or need to be. It is hard because we always seem to want more! It is so hard for us to be content with what we have now because we always think we deserve better and that it is God’s sole duty to provide and make things right for us and our hearts’ desires.
Yet, we do not always get what we want, and that makes us mourn for what we do not have. While it is fine to be sad and grieve over the challenges and losses of life, we cannot allow ourselves to be defined or duped by humanistic, addictive, destructive, temporary, and codependent pleasures and satisfactions. While there is grief caused by the fact that we are living in an imperfect world, we should know that we are not alone. For example, the saints endure similar sufferings in the past and they are praying for us now, especially for strength to endure each step of the way. Even though we are acquainted and surrounded by sufferings, we trust in His promise that He will not leave us orphaned by ourselves. This life on earth with all its imperfections is not the end, for they are only commas or semicolons, for our ultimate end is eternal life with Him. Therefore, all strifes, sufferings, pains, trials, and discomforts of this world remind us that this is not the end; if it is perfect and good, we would only depend on ourselves and do not have any need for God or trust in His grace.
While we may, at times, mourn for the wrongs or imperfections of this world, the saints remind us to lift up our hearts in hope as we find joy in God‘s never-failing divine grace, providential care, and loving assistance in times of needs. In our walk of life, we should take time, then, to contemplate how we can better our life of faith and its call for virtues. Even if we need to grieve for our sins and the failings of others, we offer them up to the Lord and ask Him to sanctify those hurts and imperfections with His loving grace. The saints and our ancestors often duped it as the “Offer it up!” attitude where we are invited to offer up all things, blessings or challenges, as a way to become closer and more Christlike in words and actions.
Nonetheless, there is a unique but unavoidable type of suffering that exists in the life of faith. None of us can run away from it! This is what the saints call “suffering of the Cross” or “inconvenience of faith” for those who choose to believe and embrace the life of Christ Jesus. This is a real, personal sorrow for those who accept the Cross for the sake of loving Christ in this life, as to die to the world and themselves for the sake of the everlasting truth and eternal life. It is an unavoidable pain that sometimes given, permitted, or dealt to us when we choose to prefer the joys of God to worldly offerings. This kind of mourning and suffering comes from those who are hurt because of their commitment to being disciples of Christ because their genuine discipleship creates resistances, raises obstacles, and makes their lives harder. There are human and spiritual powers who find this commitment to Christian discipleship as irritating, a cause to be mashed, stopped, and discouraged. Even though it is challenging, it also empowers believers to see the hidden power of grace and to meet suffering with confidence because the Lord had gone before us on the same path. All things, then, even sufferings, become instrumental by which our love becomes more Christlike as we unite everything that we have for our sanctification and salvation of the world. This profound, Christ-centered joy to willingly embrace suffering is a paradox and something that cannot be understood by this world.
The saints gave us different examples of this willingness to be joyful in suffering. They taught us true meekness with their own lives. They gave us the real definition of what it means to be both strong and gentle as we seek, live, and embrace all things with the confidence in God‘s wisdom and loving truth. These opportunities are beautiful examples of theocentric self-mastery that is based both on one’s genuine poverty of heart and trust in the power of Jesus Christ by choosing to discipline our one’s self as to become selfless and courageous in living for the truth in a joyless world of hedonistic lies, manipulative consumerism, fake utilitarian objectification, and ruthless Darwinian vindictiveness. The saints reminded us that those who fix their gazes on Christ are able to face this world with charity instead of violence and manipulation because their strength is found in the true love of the Lord and neighbors.
Christians might have possessions, but they are able to embrace the poverty of the heart so that the things around them do not become possessive of them and their freedom to follow the Master. The true understanding of possession is, therefore, not of self-centered greed but of selfless service and genuine gift of self for the greater good of all. This interior freedom allows us not to be enslaved and bogged down to our self or the materialistic goods around us. Our true joy in the Lord keeps us from getting weighed down by the constant baggage given to us by this world so we can become freer to walk toward our final destination with Him who waits and loves us. We recognize that anything that blind-sighted us from seeing the truth is not of God, therefore need to be purged and let go for the sake of greater joy and freedom in Him! We understand that our possessions can blind us from our dependence on Him; food and clothes and all the other distractions of modern life can keep us from seeing the divine presence in our neighbors, hence our lenses need to be cleaned and purified from time to time. Those matters can lead us to hell because they make us live life losing focus and thinking as if God is not important as we become more self-centered. Life becomes hellish when we cannot be joyful because we are never satisfied, always angry, frustrated, bitter, resentful, and self-centered. However, joy is possible and can be achieved if we fix our humble faith, genuine hope, and self-giving love on the Lord and follow the examples of the saints who lived joyfully in Him who loves them — even in the midst of trials and sufferings.