Vicars’ Blog – August 2018 – Seeking JOY

Seeking JOY

For me, one of the joys of August, alongside a cool drink in the garden and meeting people from the parish (as the Welcome course has encouraged us to do!) is having a bit of time to read books that feed my soul and will refresh me for the year ahead. I have just started reading the “Book of Joy” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They issue an invitation to discover the wellsprings of joy. What are the wellsprings of joy? And indeed, does joy make you happy or vice versa and can you make yourself happy or find joy for yourself?
Happiness, it turns out, is a major pursuit of humans today with over 1000 books on happiness being written in 2013. A little internet research revealed some thoughts about happiness: what it is and what it is not. Happiness is not feeling good all the time, psychologically it is actually more healthy not to have great highs and lows, but to be on an even keel. It is not being rich or affording everything you want, in fact doing things with people affects us more than having new things. It is not a final destination, it is derived much more from the daily habits we form. Research shows that humans derive happiness from meaning and from how satisfied we are with our lives on a day to day basis. Thus, we have the ability to control how we feel – and with consistent practice we can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life.
This may be an encouragement for us, especially if there is sadness, stress, and suffering in our lives at the present time. And not such great news, if we are spending our summer in pursuit of some great achievement in the hope it will make us happy: (Book of Joy) Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fame or fortune. It resides only in the human heart and mind, and it is here that we hope you will find it.
Joy is a more Biblical concept than happiness, it is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, delight. So, certainly related to happiness. A pastor comments on joy: Joy isn’t like
happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. Joy remains even amidst suffering. Joy will outlast the exhilaration and delight that result from a great success or a very beautiful or wonderful experience like a wedding or graduation. The definition of joy that the world holds is not nearly as amazing as biblical joy.
Biblically, joy is associated with faith in Christ, who himself gave up all that he had and died on the cross for our forgiveness. (Hebrews 12:2) We keep fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus had a far bigger perspective than happiness today or even for our lifetime. He had eternity in mind and through his selfless sacrifice, he achieved for those who believe in him, joy and everlasting and peace with God for ever. Peter call this to mind when he says: (1 Peter 1:8) Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
Now this is the kind of reading that will feed my soul and refresh me for the year ahead. It is also believing in Jesus that gives me strength to set daily patterns that keep me healthy and on an even keel. We have a long way to go, small changes can steer the ship in a different direction.
I hope you find joy and happiness this summer and I leave the final word to the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. There is perhaps nothing more joyous than birth, and yet so much of this life is spent is sadness, stress, and suffering… We hope that you will discover that every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday. Yours, Cathy and Jonny