There is a lot of talk in our society about happiness, but what I would like to hear more about is joy. And I would like to hear about it in church. Don’t promise me that I will be happy. Tell me instead about joy.
Happiness is a feeling, brought on by inner and outer circumstances But joy is a theological concept that speaks to more than feelings or circumstances.
Harvard psychology lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar says that joy is the intersection of deep pleasure and deep meaning. Joy can occur even in unhappy situations, such as in the midst of a sacrifice. Joy springs up in that odd moment when despair turns madly, unexpectedly, against all odds towards hope.
Joy can take place on either side of the hospital waiting room door. Joy allows us to see the brilliance of life even as it is slipping away from us. Joy is pure grace, a gift that is bigger than our human imaginations and sneaks up on us like a silent friend with a soft shoulder to cry on. Joy is big enough to contain our deeply felt tears.
"In pain we want our suffering to disappear, in joy we want the things that make us happy to endure," said the great theologian Jurgen Moltmann. Joy is big and generous. Pain is short-sighted, and in the scheme of eternity, short-lived.