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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

What Is Joy?

Humor In Chaos

Searching for Joy

What Is Joy?


Ask the average person on the street, “What is joy?” and basic explanations of “feeling happy” or some synonym will sprout. When I think of joy, I don’t think about feelings. Feelings are fleeting. I think about joy as a state of being, a culmination of multiple feelings, thought patterns and actions centered around gratitude. Frankly, it’s hard to have gratitude when your world has fallen apart.


I prefer very short definitions. Mine is: true contentment in the mundane aspects of life. Doesn’t that sound boring? I know it sounds boring, but it isn’t really.


Contentment is about having peace within regardless of circumstances. When I have peace within, I feel like anything is possible. Feeling like anything is possible tends to make miracles more visible all around. I see them all around me. I see God at work in the big and small things. I tend to have a more liberal definition of miracles.


I have had endless debates with people who ask, “What is a miracle?” These are mostly people who tend to view the world negatively. For them to accept something as a miracle, it needs to be so big and so broad that it requires God Himself to show up as solid and large as Mount Vesuvius, and must broadcast all over the world at once. I don’t see miracles that way. I can look at a flower about to bloom and shed a tear at the marvel of God’s hand at work. To me, that is as much of a miracle as God splitting the Red Sea.


I remember the first time my oldest son had a deep-rooted belly laugh. He was a few months old, proudly enjoying his newfound ability to sit upright and see the world from a more independent standpoint. I was sitting on the floor with him going through the mail. I had a piece of junk mail to throw away. Before I tossed it, I tore it in half. My son’s eyes grew wide from the sound of torn paper. He took a big breath and laughed and laughed and laughed. I started laughing at his laughing. I grabbed another piece of paper and tore that one in two. More laughter!  I tore another and another. I even threw it in the air like confetti. There was no end to his hearty, joy-filled laughter until I ran out of paper and he was ready for his afternoon nap. So much joy and laughter and happiness in the mundaneness of tearing paper. His belly laugh was a miracle to me.


I found joy in the moment. Not in the paper. I had a mess to clean up. I found joy in his brand new experience of laughter. He gave joy to me. Other people might find that ridiculous. Joy from shredded paper? Why do we throw colorful confetti at parties? Because it brings us back to the simple joys of childhood.


Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.


To be in that childlike state of joy again! That’s a blessing.


What about when bad things happen?


Nowhere does the bible say that if one is a good Christian, bad things won’t happen. On the contrary. There are lots of bible verses on trials and tribulations in the lives of believers. One of the most obvious to me is Ephesians 6 that directs us to put on the armor of God. Why would God give us that directive if we were not meant to experience troubles?


In Matthew 16:24-26, we are told to pick up our cross and follow Him, and to deny ourselves. The cross is heavy. Deny ourselves? That comes with trials. Matthew follows this up a little later in 26:41. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.


1 Peter 1:6-9 brings home the connection between suffering and joy. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.


When I put all that together, I hear that life is hard, but there is protection to help, and reason to rejoice because reward is available in the end.


I’m getting preachy, and I am not a preacher. Let me get the point. What is joy?


It isn’t a feeling, although feelings are involved. It’s more of a state of being. It’s a choice to live in the Love of Christ no matter what. It is possible to have joy while experiencing pain when knowing the pain has a purpose, even when the purpose is not obvious.


For an understanding of what joy is, I read the Dalai Lama’s definition, Brene Brown’s Book called “Atlas of the Heart,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in various places throughout the Bible.  


They all added up to a very long definition that includes aspects of peace, compassion, kindness, gratitude, perseverance, resilience, contentment, acceptance, hope, love, connection, authenticity, and faithfulness. And more. All these things are true. And complicated. And can be sewn like seeds in a field within us, nurtured, watered, and prayed over to ask God to grow them.


There is an important aspect in having joy through hardships. We cannot recognize when things are good and be grateful for them unless, at times, they are bad.


When is the last time you got sick with a really bad cold? It wasn’t the flu. It wasn’t covid. It was a bad cold. Because it was a cold, you pushed and worked. You felt sluggish for days. Maybe even a couple of weeks. Finally, you started to feel better. You woke up one day and felt like running a mile or two before dressing for work. You ate the heartiest breakfast in weeks. You sat down for a meeting and someone commented on your whistling. You didn’t know you were whistling. Then it occurred to you: you had been more sick the previous two weeks than you realized. You only recognized it after because of how much better you felt. You understood how sick you were in relation to how well you felt afterwards.


We don’t know how cold we are until we are warm. We don’t know how hungry we are until we eat. We don’t know how lonely we are until someone sits down to table with us. And we don’t know how lost we are until we are found.


This is why there is room for joy when we suffer. We can know it by remembering how it felt when we had it. It all centers around gratitude.


James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more!



Humor In Chaos


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