Whenever I speak to groups on the spirituality of joy, the most common query I receive is: does Christian joy, which flows from believing in the Good News, mean that I am supposed to be happy all the time, writes James Martin SC.
Short answer: No.
This is a concept particularly important for an understanding of Christian joy. First, let me distinguish joy from happiness. Unlike happiness, joy is not simply a fleeting feeling or an evanescent emotion, it is a permanent result of one’s connection to God.
While the more secular definition of joy may be simply an intense form of happiness, religious joy is always about a relationship. Joy has an object and that object is God. The ultimate response to the good news is joy, one that is lasting and can endure even in the midst of difficulties.
But this does not mean that the Christian is always happy. Sadness is a natural response to pain, suffering and tragedy in life. It is human, natural and even, in a way, desirable: sadness in response to a tragic event shows that you are emotionally alive. If you were not sad from time to time, you would be something less than human.
William A. Barry, a Jesuit priest and clinical psychologist, echoes this. 'If you’re not saddened by certain things, you’re not normal,' he said. 'For example, when a loved one dies or in response to natural disasters. Sadness is part of life.'
Jesus was surely a joyful person who laughed. How do we know this? For one thing, his parables and sayings are clever and often amusing. Indeed, Scripture scholars tell us that we may be missing much of Jesus’ sense of humor in the New Testament, since we no longer understand the context. And we know that as a fully human person, Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, so Jesus must have laughed.
FULL STORY Have faith in joy