Quotes about joy are all over the place. TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Pinterest (Oh, Pinterest! 😍), Instagram. Everywhere. They’re quotes that have inspired me to seek contentment and happiness, but not necessarily joy.
Why? Because the quotes aren’t actually talking about joy most of the time. And I would even propose, our culture doesn’t really know what joy is.
See, here’s the thing, there’s a societal misunderstanding about joy. Particularly in that, we think joy and happiness are synonymous. Lots of the quotes on these adorable quote boards and stenciled paneled signs make this mistake.
I am guilty of it, we’re probably all guilty of it, we use the words joy and happiness, and sometimes even pleasure, interchangeably as though they mean the same thing. But that’s not the case.
Discovering the Truth about Joy
Joy is not something we can create by ourselves. It’s not something we earn or can grasp. And we definitely can’t buy it. Joy is a gift; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that comes from surrendering ourselves to God and his will for our lives.
Joy is given when we say yes to the Father and no to everything else that gets in the way of having a relationship with him. Joy comes when we live for him—and, therefore, place all our trust in him.
That’s easy enough to understand, but how do we do this? How do we become people of joy? Because we all want it! Especially since we know it’s the best of the best. We want the best, the deepest, the most gratifying there is to obtain.
But joy is particularly attractive, simply because God made us for it. Because he made us for himself and and “In him is fullness of Joy” – Psalm 16:11. Therefore, joy comes from having a true relationship with him. It’s like God rubs off on us and the effect is joy!
Practical Ways to Obtain Joy
Here’s how I understand the pursuit of joy: If joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, then perhaps it is a fruit of trusting in the one who is joy itself and is the giver of himself to us. How do we trust in God and be open to receiving him?
1. Seek God’s will for your life.
Do you believe me when I say that our number one mission in this life is to figure out what God wills for our lives? Easy, huh? Right. But it may not be as hard as you think. The Church has given us a big hint on how to do this. The hint is the Two Great Commandments. Do you remember what those are? See Mark 12:28-34. (Do you feel like you’re back in religion class yet?)
- The first: “The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
- The second: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
How do we live these? By living out our vocation. And each and everyone one of our vocations (little “v”) is to love and to truly love means always seeking the good of the other in every relationship and encounter. This will look different for each one of us because we all have different Vocations (big “V”) (i.e., married, priest, religious or single).
2. Pray for increased trust in God.
Praying the Our Father takes quite a bit of trust! To tell God “thy will be done” when we don’t know what his will is, shows a lot of faith on our part. It shows that we know he wants the best for us, and we believe that best goes even beyond joy in this life…It extends into eternity with him in Heaven.
While I know God wants my good and is working for my good, I am always trying to deepen my trust in him. There are days, weeks, and months that I’m just not so sure he’s paying attention to my life. But, both prayer and the lives of the saints have taught me that he is indeed there.
Saint Faustina has helped me with how to pray about this, particularly for increased trust. When I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and include Faustina’s words, “Jesus, I trust in you!” I always follow them with my own, “Jesus, help me to trust in you!”
3. Desire to become a saint.
Have you ever heard the expression “No one wants to live with a saint. Saints are boring!”? Uh, I do! I want to live with a saint! Anyone else join me in that sentiment? Where did that saying come from anyway? George, the fun-loving boss in the movie Two Weeks Notice says it. Well, you’re wrong George (A.K.A. Mr. Cutie Hugh Grant)!
There is something called the universal call to holiness. In short, it means that we’re all called to be saints! Not just priests, religious sisters, pastors, deacons, Mother Teresa, John Paul II, but our mothers and fathers, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and sisters, neighbors, spouses, the Starbucks barista, and uh, yeah, you! And we’re incredibly blessed if we live with a saint because they can show us the ropes.
4. Let go of the things that get in the way of God and do more of what lets God in.
So, continuing the last point, how does one become a saint? This can mean doing the things that give us life. Yes, believe it! God wants you to be doing the things you enjoy! Because, these things are bringing you closer to him.
Your relationship with God not only grows by receiving him in the Eucharist, Confession, and prayer throughout the day, but also in your relationships, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, traveling, cooking, painting, woodworking, writing, reading… whatever it is that brings you life, peace, and satisfaction. (Besides, when you fill yourself up with these beautiful things, you have more of yourself to give!)
Things that lead us away from God take away our joy. This is also called sin. Sin steals our joy! And sin makes up those things that don’t live up to love. Things that aren’t actually seeking your good. A few of these include pornography, shopping all the time, choosing not to help others, drugs, friends, and family who are destructive, using social media when our spouse or child needs our attention, treating our bodies poorly, etc.
5. Be people of faith and love.
So, to be people of joy, we must be people of faith and love. To have joy you must have faith. But in order to have faith, you also must love, and this naturally leads you back to joy. Get it?
So, really, seeking and living God’s will is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. You not only will radiate joy, but you’ll be living love the way it was intended: sacrificially. You’ll be trusting in God and have faith in him, his commandments and promises.