Joy seems to be all around us at this time of year.
But is joy only for the good times?
Is there a joy that can help us through the bad times? A joy that is deeper than sorrow or suffering? A joy that can sustain us through the worst defeats and disappointments?
Surely there is. Surely there’s a joy we can access when we need it most.
Rollo May, the therapist, believes there is. He wrote:
“People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of the availability of energy to transform their characters…Every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth.”
Of course, May is not talking about pasting a grin on our face when our heart is breaking. This is not about faking it.
I think he’s talking about reaching down a little deeper…to a joy that underlies and runs through all of life and existence in the same way the invisible power of electricity runs across the world, through every town, and into every house, powering everything we do.
He’s talking about a joy that is there, available, as close to us as our next breath (when there might not have been a next breath). A joy that’s as new every day as the morning sunrise. A joy we can always reach for—in spite of the headlines and stresses. A joy that comes to us through humor, through sharing of stories, through a moment of laughter, or a quiet smile.
It’s a joy that connects us to nature and to every other individual. A joy that can help us do better work, handle problems better, and do less damage in our relationships. A joy that can help us keep going even when we feel like we’re running on empty.
Is joy the deepest thing in the universe?
The great composer Johann Sebastian Bach came home from a long journey to find that his beloved wife and daughter had died during his absence.
That night he wrote in his journal: “Lord, don’t let me lose my joy.”
He went on, in the years to come, to compose beautiful music that has brought joy to millions.