Abiding in joy
When things get tough, happiness can feel out of reach. But there’s a deep, healing, spiritual joy that God imparts to all of us that we can feel in circumstances of all kinds.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17, 18, New King James Version).
The writer of this Bible verse paints a pretty bleak picture – maybe not unlike the lack and concerns that some are facing today. But as I was reading this recently, the little word “yet” suddenly shone like a light. In spite of nothing yielding any productivity or growth, this prophet, Habakkuk, was joyful.
To me this points to something we can all experience, through prayer: joy stemming from a deeply anchored trust in God’s powerful goodness, regardless of the way things look right at a given moment.
The joy I’m talking about is not grinning and bearing it or a surface “don’t worry, be happy” approach. It is an indispensable and permanent spiritual quality whose substance is found in God, divine Soul – which is another Bible-based name for God highlighted in Christian Science. God gives joy without measure to all of His children. This is a spiritual reality that holds true in all circumstances. Even the gloom of Christianity’s darkest moment – the crucifixion of Jesus – had to ultimately yield to the joy of God’s supremacy seen in the resurrection.
Because such joy is derived from Soul – the one true source of everyone’s spiritual individuality – it is as ever present as Soul itself. It can’t be snatched away by changing circumstances and conditions. Hopelessness and discouragement that would snuff out joy become powerless to influence our thinking when we grasp that God, infinite good, doesn’t cause such feelings.
Is expressing joy consistently too high a goal? For me, there have been days when it’s felt pretty unreachable. But I’ve also seen that joy is in fact attainable even in difficult situations.
While joy can be lively and radiant, I felt it as a quiet steadiness in an experience I had some time ago. I had become ill with a severe cough that included extreme weakness and weight loss. At one point there was a fever that incapacitated me.
Although there were times I felt discouraged, my prayers felt buoyed by a quiet sense of uplifted joy that echoes the biblical idea that God “answers and corresponds to” the joy in our hearts – that “the tranquillity of God is mirrored” in us (Ecclesiastes 5:20, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).
Mary Baker Eddy who discovered Christian Science, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in. He constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit. If honest, he will be in earnest from the start, and gain a little each day in the right direction, till at last he finishes his course with joy” (p. 21).
What this says to me is that the sincere willingness to consistently look to God, Spirit, to light our path brings joy even in the midst of struggles. Whether the experiences of the day are good or not so good, this approach helps keep thought God-focused and open to divine inspiration that heals.
During this period, I felt the value of this. As I prayed, actively affirming God’s caring presence and power, my thought was consistently lifted to a tangible sense of joy and gratitude for and trust in God. It was like a lens through which I saw clearly my unity with God as His loved daughter, purely spiritual and whole. Healing felt inevitable – and when the healing did come, of course I rejoiced.
The situations we find ourselves in can vary enormously, yet we can always cultivate a deep-seated rejoicing in the goodness of God. Such joy keeps us ready and prepared to see the renewing and refreshing power of good pervading every aspect of our lives.
Some more great ideas! To hear a podcast discussion about how you can support our military with healing prayer, please click through to the latest edition of Sentinel Watch on www.JSH-Online.com titled, “Praying with and for the military.” There is no paywall for this podcast.