I received a communication of joy today from a former John Adams Academy family that moved to another state a while ago.
Joy may come in a lot of ways. As I pondered the idea of joy, it led me to a 19th century dictionary.
The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits. Joy is a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of a good. Happiness; felicity. A glorious and triumphant state.Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language 1828
Yet things are not always joyful in building a school, a business, or a family.
However, they are totally worth it. Joy is the word most closely associated with the most significant moments in our lives — like finding faith, purpose in the passing of a loved one, or birth of a child. C.S. Lewis described an encounter with joy as he was trying to identify and describe the events surrounding his accidental discovery of and consequent search for the phenomenon he labeled joy which was his best translation of the idea sehnsucht (which is German for “longing”). In his book Surprised by Joy he noted,
A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere, “Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,” as Herbert says, “fine nets and stratagems.” God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
We also see the word joy used at the resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ, “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.” (Matthew KJV 25:8) When the apostles saw The Lord and “they believed not for joy.” (Luke 24:41). Or recall the birth of The Lord in Luke 2 expressed by the angel to the shepherds. “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Or the joy our children bring us. “I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in righteousness.” (3 John 1:4 KJV)
What if joy has been eluding me? There is great hope that joy will find you, perhaps unexpectedly. I love the poem, “Surprised by Joy” by William Wordsworth.
Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind I turned to share the transport—Oh! with whom But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb, That spot which no vicissitude can find? Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind— But how could I forget thee?—Through what power, Even for the least division of an hour, Have I been so beguiled as to be blind To my most grievous loss!—That thought’s return Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore, Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn, Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more; That neither present time, nor years unborn Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
Wordsworth was surprised to find and experience joy during grief. The psalmist shares perspective with these words. “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms KJV 30:5) And “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalms KJV 126:5)
Don’t be surprised by joy when it comes to pay you a visit. In the interim, remember that gratitude for your current joys may be the bridge to more joy as it wends its way to you. I love this quote by Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” My wife Linda taught our family this over the years by inviting us to have an active gratitude journal. The act of expressing gratitude for a grace or mercy each day may do the most to liberate joy in your life.