How do you define Joy? Is joy more than happiness or pleasure?
Sometimes we look around us at our neighbors and friends and think that their lives are so much better than ours. Maybe they have a beautiful home, wonderful children and a big boat.
We live in a pleasure seeking culture. We want to always be happy, entertained, and pampered. It is easy to get caught up in the wants and passions of the day. It is so easy to forget where we came from, who we are and why we are here.
In the New Testament (Galatians 5:22), joy is defined as one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith...”
Joy comes through overcoming our trials and things that we suffer. It comes with gaining maturity of faith. It comes with knowing that God is our father and that he has a plan for us. It is the sweet knowing that we are loved and the sureness that there is hope of a fullness of joy when we again see His face.
In Nehemiah 8:10 “the joy of the Lord,” is equated with “strength.” In Romans 14:17 Paul tells the Romans that joy is one of the core values, along with righteousness and peace “in the Holy Ghost”. As we gain strength over our challenges we begin to know joy. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit as we gain a closer relationship with our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.
When we are born into this life we step through a veil of forgetfulness. Joy comes as our Spirits remember our Father and our heavenly home. Joy is that deep knowing within our souls that we are children of a Father in Heaven and that we are loved.
Joy is like a flowing river it comes a little at a time and in waves. It comes in quiet moments and in happy and boisterous bursts, like an unexpected wonderful gift. It is our compass directing us on the path as we seek to be reunited with our Heavenly home.
I wonder if it was this joy that Lehi was trying to teach Laman when he showed him the river that emptied into the Red Sea. In 1Nephi 2:9 Lehi spake to Laman saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
It is interesting to compare Lehi's perspective in life with that of his son. Lehi walked away from the home he had always known, his wealth, his position and standing in his community, and the culture of his people. Lehi had an eternal perspective whereas Laman was focused on temporal things. They both made the same journey in the wilderness but Laman was bitter, he complained and was always in contention with those around him.
Lehi knew Heavenly Father's plan for us and he wanted to share it with the son whom he loved. Lehi knew that it is through faithfully living gospel principles that we find joy in this life and in the next.
It is a natural inclination to share joy with others, especially the ones we love. John taught that the greatest joy a parent can have on this earth is to see that their children walk in truth. We find joy in our children and we want them to be happy. In 2 Nephi 2:25 Lehi said, “Men are that they might have joy.” Our joy is increased when it is shared with the ones that we love.
Because of a forgetfulness of our Heavenly home, the trials we face while on this mortal journey can become overwhelming at times. In the ups and downs and struggles of our daily lives, we sometimes find ourselves in the depths of sorrow. Our Savior Jesus Christ gave his life for us so that we could have the beautiful gift of life everlasting which is in the direct opposition of sorrow. Overcoming death and sorrow is part of everlasting joy. He promised to wipe away our tears.
Joy is faith that our Heavenly Father loves us and has a plan for our return to Him. Joy is knowing that our Savior gave His life that we may live and be reunited with those we love. Joy is an underlying peace that is ours when we remember who we are and why we are here. Joy comes when we follow the path set for us by our Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ. Joy helps us to have hope when we stumble and struggle in this life. We gain joy when we are able to see the big picture. When we know that we are in the hands of our Heavenly Father. That through His plan He provided a Savior to give his life that we might live and through His sacrifice we could overcome our sins and again live with Him.
So what can you do to find joy in your life?
This journey begins with a desire to believe in a Heavenly Father who loves us. Hope is born of a belief that this life has a purpose and that He is there and knows of our struggles.
This journey requires humility, the humbleness to know that there is something bigger than ourselves.
This journey requires willingness to listen to the spiritual whisperings of the Holy Ghost. A willingness to listen and to act. As we act upon these prompting of the Spirit we find that the Spirit is incompatible with Sin. Sins are the stumbling blocks that we face in this mortal existence. We may be bound to addictions of the body and mind and to errors of thinking.
As we open our hearts to belief in a power greater than ourselves and to the reality of a Father in Heaven, the Spirit of the Holy Ghost will begin to make a powerful change in us. As our heart change, the focus of our lives change. We begin to feel sorrow for choices that take us away from the peace and joy we feel when we are in tune with the Spirit and with our Father in Heaven.
This is truly what repentance is. It is the ability to recognize the actions and errors in our thinking that bind us down. Things that make us stumble and hold us back. It is coming to the place in our lives where we have a desire to change. It is when our heart changes and we work to no longer hold onto the things that separate us from our Father in Heaven. It is when we recognize the mistakes that we have made and we make every effort to put things right with others, ourselves and our Heavenly Father.
Joy comes as we build a relationship with our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ. Joy comes with gratitude as we begin to notice and appreciate their influence in our daily lives.
Having joy in our lives doesn't mean that we will not face sorrows or challenges. Everyone has trials and challenges to overcome in this life. For some the challenges seem overwhelming. In His love for us our Heavenly Father has made it possible for us to have a daily connection with him through prayer.
Our Father in Heaven loves us and has set a plan in motion that we might have joy. He has left sign posts along the way to guide us. We find messages just for us in the passages of the scriptures and and in the words of Prophets past and present. As we tune our lives to the whisperings of the Spirit and the words of inspired leaders we are better able to overcome our challenges and to find joy in our lives. When we live the principles of the Gospel our joy increases.
There are people who seem to shine with the light of joy. These are the same people who are living their lives in the service of others. They are quick to offer a smile to a stranger and a hand to those in need. They are the ones who quietly pick up the chairs after a meeting or cheerfully take a meal to a new mother or to a family that has lost a loved one. You find these people at the temple week after week doing vicarious work for those who could not do it for themselves. They know who they are. They know where they came from and they know where they are going. They see the big picture.
Joy seems to be inseparable from gratitude. With joy comes a profound sense of reverence and gratitude to a Father in Heaven who loves us and to the Savior Jesus Christ who gave His life that we may live.
The Gospel plan was designed that we might have joy in this life and a fullness of joy when we return to our Heavenly home. What joy will be ours when we again see the face of our Father in Heaven and those who have gone on before us.
Our challenge in this life is to find joy in the journey while we are here. To learn the things that we came here to learn. To love one another and endure to the end.