Joy in Hard Times
We live in hard times but that does not mean we cannot have joy in our lives. Joy can pull us through the stormy waters. If you have lost it, it can be found again. Simply go back to your childhood and remember when you first felt joy. As children we knew joy before we learnt about the fear of rejection, failure or loss.
I will never forget one Sunday morning when I was about to proclaim the dismissal. The congregation was singing a spirit-filled song and a little boy of 2 years old, wearing glasses went out into the aisle and starting dancing with joy. He was oblivious to anything else and his parents were embarassed. He danced with perfect rhythm and uncannily did a double somersault down the aisle when the hymn concluded. He brought joy to every heart in the place.
According James A. Kitchens, Ph.D. in his book: Talking to Ducks: Rediscovering the Joy and Meaning in Your Life, there are three levels of joy. There is contingent joy that depends on external circumstances, such as getting the job you want. This kind of joy is a result of "if only this would happen". There is contextual joy that arises from the context of life wherein we are fulfilled by our achievements. This kind of joy gives us a feeling of peace and contentment. Then there is congruent joy. This is pure joy not contigent on what is good or bad. It is the kind of joy that we carry inside of us. This is the joy a child has since he/she hasn't been touched by life. It is the kind of joy that we find in every religious tradition.
Joy disappears fast when we let ourselves become fearful and there is a lot these days we can become afraid of. The economy is uncertain, violence seems to be escalating and people are over-reacting. Fear is the result of our imagination creating outcomes ahead of time and the mass media is helping by over-speculation. Fear, stress and worry are joy stealers.
During these hard times we need to quiet our hearts and take a walk in nature, breathing in fresh air and feel the wind or sun on our faces. Keeping life simple is a way of rediscovering joy. The first time my boxer pup chased a leaf down the street gave me joy. Look for the small things in life and you will usually find joy there.