Joy is one of the indicators on the dashboard of the spiritual life that help us gauge the life of the soul. As we move closer to maturity, joy becomes more constant and less related to circumstances. Joy combines three core elements – the root in reality, the inner convictional sense, and the outward expression.
The more solidly rooted we are in what is true, the more stable and certain is our joy. Think for a moment about some of the realities which shape view of the world and ourselves. The King and Creator of the Universe has made this world for us – and us for this world. He has provided life and sustenance for us. He has chosen us to be the bearers of His Image and His Name. He has told us His name – allowing us to call Him Father. He has defined the nature of beauty, and the beauty of nature. He has given us access into the heavenlies. He has provided a way to deal decisively and completely with everything that separates us from life – His and ours. He has promised that He would never leave us alone in the world but would be present with us until the very end of the age, when we will be fully present with Him.
These are the core realities in which joy is rooted.
Based on these core realities, we can allow the full flourishing of an inner convictional joy as consequence. Because those things are true, we can live in freedom. We can learn and live in contentment, knowing that no matter what happens, God is committed to us. We can calm down from the frantic craziness of trying to be by doing – and increasingly allow what we do to flow naturally and easily out of who we are. We can more easily establish priorities centered on the Kingdom we seek, allowing life to become simpler and more focused. We can live without fear in relationships, willing to risk intimacy because the core of our identity is established with God in Christ.
The third element of joy is external. It shows up in exuberant and reflective worship, gentle and boisterous laughter, a sense of calm certainty, stability and strength in the middle of chaos and crisis, tears drifting down over smiles which remain, hope, a certain lightness of being, an unquenchable optimism based in reality, . . . and a few thousand other things that vibrate with glory!
No matter how dark may be the night, a certain joy guides us through to morning.