Joy that lasts

IT can be easy on a beautiful morning, with a blue sky and maybe a free day ahead of us, to feel happy. But it's not always so easy to stay happy. The demands of a full day of work, bad weather conditions, the strain of family relationships, and harsh circumstances that sometimes confront us can eat away at that joy. Nobody likes to be unhappy. And all of us would like to find a joy that doesn't come and go without our control but that's deeper, that can stay with us through the trials we face. There are lots of theories about how to stay happy. Some individuals start their day by telling themselves that this is the best day of their life, and that nothing is going to defeat them or make them unhappy. Yet this may simply be positive thinking, which can sound good and even provide some temporary comfort, but which often falls down under the stress of circumstances. Repeating a comfortable phrase isn't the answer, and it isn't the answer Christianity brings.

Christ Jesus had this to say about joy: ``If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.'' 1 That joy might remain and be full -- Jesus clearly saw this as a possibility for mankind, and as a certainty for those who keep his commandments. And not just any kind of joy, but the joy that Jesus felt, the joy that carried him through a healing mission and through his resurrection.

Such joy is not a haphazard occurrence, or something magical that suddenly appears one day. ``If ye keep my commandments . . .'' was the condition that Jesus gave for this joy. A deep desire to follow his teachings, to abide by the rules he set down in the Sermon on the Mount and in all his words, will lead us into the joy that he speaks of. This goes a lot deeper than repeating, ``It's going to be a great day,'' or even ``God loves me.'' It takes getting to know what the Bible has to say to us, understanding its lasting spiritual value to us, and putting into practice what we learn.

When my husband passed on, I thought that it would be a very long time before I was happy again, if I ever could be happy again. Those things that I had enjoyed before -- the beauty of nature, the joy of children -- lost their glow because I didn't have someone to share them with. But I had been taught as a child that God fulfills the Bible promises. And I knew that Christ Jesus had promised us joy. So I began a thorough study of the Bible and another book I had found indispensable to my study of the Bible: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.2

There's no room in this space to tell of all the lessons I learned. But I started a joyous adventure that I doubt will ever end. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``Life is eternal.'' She goes on to say, ``Let us then shape our views of existence into loveliness, freshness, and continuity, rather than into age and blight.'' 3

I began to try to do this day by day, and hour by hour -- I began to make God my constant companion and let what He has to say about His children and His creation be the source of my joy. Beyond a simple repeating of words, I found that God does love me and all, and that His plan for all of us is goodness and joy. And one day I realized that I was happy! I had learned that my husband was always in God's care, and that I was too, and that both of us lived in joy.

This joy can't be taken away, because it is based on a knowledge of God. It's as eternal as God is, and it's available to everyone. There's nothing more joyous than getting to know God. This joy lasts through hard times. It begins to heal those things that we think make us unhappy. Then we're better able to look outward, and share our joy.

1 John 15:10, 11.

2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

3 Science and Health, p. 246.

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