When can you say you last experienced joy? A few different scenarios might come to mind — your new baby nephew being born — that really fun party you went to on Friday — finally figuring out what the heck you’ll be doing when you get your degree…
Hold up, though. Let’s take a step back. What is joy?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, joy is one of the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit along with charity, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.1
This joy is different than just regularly feeling happy. It stems from something deeper and lasting. Humans have a natural desire for this joy:
This desire [for joy] is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it”
So, from this we can infer there is a direct connection to joy from one source alone: Jesus.
Saint Paul, too, calls us to be joyful. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”2 Yet, sometimes circumstances make it really hard to be joyful and give thanks.
At times, it feels as if the world just sucks the joy right out of you. This constant battle to live a joyful life makes it seem like authentic joy is unattainable. All of these obstacles must be acknowledged but can be overcome. As Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer.”
Saint Paul makes it sound so simple so, why do we struggle? Nothing good comes without putting in an effort. We struggle with various types of adversity in our lives in a multitude of ways. For example, you can’t expect to ace a difficult exam without finding the time to study.
People try to seek joy in any way they can during college. This can be through attention from the opposite sex, alcohol, or any number of other distractions that obscure the negatives in their lives. However, the problem with these joys is that they are all temporary. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches.
That cute guy may only be interested in looks and nothing more, that beer may just give a short buzz, and those friends may not be there when it counts.
Think of it like an equation:
You + What you think will bring joy = Temporary and unsatisfying relief.
So where in the world are we supposed to find true joy? The only way to attain true joy is through Christ. In this difficult equation of finding authentic joy, people replace Jesus with whatever they think will bring them joy. That attention from a guy? No one pays more attention to you than your creator! That drink you keep refilling to get a buzz? How about the cup of eternal life, that never leaves you wanting? The constant need for people around? How about spending time face-to-face with Jesus in adoration. You can’t get more intimate than that.
If you’re unclear as to what adoration is, you can read more at here.
It wasn’t so easy for me to figure this all out from the beginning. I watched friends in high school and now in college struggle with the things mentioned earlier: partying, drinking, relationships, etc. They all searched for things to bring them joy but ultimately left longing for something more. I didn’t understand they had their equation all wrong.
It wasn’t until I really opened my heart to let Jesus in that I knew what I was missing. One of the ways that greatly helped was by spending time in the presence of Jesus in Eucharistic adoration.
Before college, I had a lot less interest in taking time from my day to fit in intimacy with Jesus. Then little by little, when I realized that I was actually sitting in the presence of God, I left feeling complete instead of longing for something temporary. I let the Lord open my eyes to how He was working on my heart. I let Him take it apart and put it together piece by piece with His love and compassion. I cannot even express the amount of joy that filled me through this! That is the kind of joy you cannot find anywhere else, I can promise you that.
We, as humans, were made to desire joy — it’s only natural. Like any loving father who does anything he can to bring joy to his child, the same goes for our heavenly Father. When we search for joy in temporary places and feel incomplete, God doesn’t desert us. He so desperately wants us to be filled with true joy! We cannot expect to attain joy without the awareness of the need for Jesus. Remember from earlier, we can infer there is a direct connection to joy from one source: Jesus. Bingo! The equation makes so much more sense.
You + Jesus = Authentic joy
Is it really that simple? Well, not exactly. Like previously stated, nothing good comes without putting in a little effort.
Here are some of the best ways to truly bring joy into your life:
- Surrender yourself to Christ – Jesus is so eagerly waiting with open arms to grow more intimately with you. So let Him! Let go of everything holding you back. I highly recommend just taking some time aside, even 10 minutes, to go to adoration. Let Him work through you and be the stitches you need to replace that temporary Band-Aid.
- Practice small acts of kindness every day – It doesn’t have to be anything big. Why not practice humility by performing small acts of kindness every day? These could be as small as praying for a stranger in passing, or paying for the drink of the person behind you at the drive-thru. I never realized how truly rewarding it was after I started living my life in this way, and how much joy I had from bringing joy to others. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “Miss no single opportunity to make some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word, always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
- Be thankful for your blessings – This one always gets me. I find myself complaining about what I don’t have and what I really need. Really those needs are just wants that all end with me only thinking of myself. Before you go to bed, think of all the blessings you encountered that day. When you wake up in the morning, thank God for your life! Shouldn’t another day of just being alive be enough joy? Why not spread that joy to others?
- Stop being negative – I mean, it only makes sense that joy and negativity do not go well together. If there is something in your life that brings you down, get rid of it. Why spend all of your waking hours being negative? And while you’re at it, help those around you take negativity out of their lives. There’s no room in a joyful life for negativity. Pray each day to keep Christ at the center of everything you do and negativity will recede.
- Seek joy in everything you do – You heard me right! Authentic joy comes from Christ, so keep Christ the center of everything. Before you make decisions in your life ask yourself a few questions:
“Will this ultimately bring me joy in the end?”
“Is this something that will grow me closer to holiness?”
“Will this be a temporary or fulfilling joy?”
“Joy is a gift from God. It fills us from within.”
Cover Image by Reid Wiseman/NASA/EPA