The Condition of Joy
If you were to look up the word Joy in a standard dictionary you would find a definition that defines joy as ‘a feeling of great happiness’. There have been times in my life when I have experienced joy so powerful that, like the grinch on Christmas morning, it felt as if my heart was physically expanding. Feelings of joy this intense are rare, but they happen and when they do, they are memorable.
Joy is a feeling of great happiness but there is more to joy than the worldly definition, can capture.
The Guide to the Scriptures defines joy as “A condition of great happiness coming from righteous living’. The difference between the world’s definition of joy and joy as defined by scripture is striking.
Generally, when we think of joy, we think of it as periodic, the feeling arrives, it passes and is then followed by another emotion, we think of joy as a periodic emotion, but there is a depth to joy that penetrates deeper than feelings. The joy that concerns us is a condition.
We as believers learn from both scripture and experience that joy can be a condition of life, a condition that comes as a result of righteous living.
Like love, joy can exist and endure beyond the transient experience of feeling. This type of joy, the condition of joy, is inseparably tied to our commitment to faith and the right actions that comprise righteousness.
Righteous living brings about the condition of joy, but what is this righteousness and how can it lead us beyond the feeling - into the condition?
Righteousness can be recognized as the commonly understood things: keeping the commandments and avoiding sin, but this simple understanding is only a foundation on which we must build.
The truth that you cannot do wrong and feel right, is absolute, but there is more depth to the type of righteousness needed to obtain a condition of Joy.
Our end goal, the true purpose of our lives is to receive a fullness of joy… and we are on that path here and now. Although trapped in the illusion of time, we are, in this very moment, dwelling in eternity, and, in this portion of our eternity our physical body, the procreative power we have been given, and our freedom to choose are all essential elements that can allow for a condition of joy now, in this life, and will help to ensure we receive the fullness of joy our Father offers in the next.
‘Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy.’ In this we learn that Joy is the objective of our entire existence, an ultimate full and complete condition of joy is our end goal and Father’s great gift. Although we cannot receive that fullness in this life, we can reside in a condition of joy, in, through and BECAUSE of our periodic sorrows and pains.
This great promise of living in a condition of joy can be realized but it demands effort and has requirements.
The great lessons from the fall of man is that a genuine condition of Joy becomes possible only when our eyes are open, and as it is derived from a variety of experiences. As difficult as it can be, for our joy to be complete these various experiences must include the uncomfortable things such as pain and sorrow.
The first requirement for living in a condition of joy is the most obvious, righteousness. We cannot reside in joy if we are burdened by sin. But, as we all know, none of us is truly righteous, so righteousness for us, must include repentance and a faithful dependence on the atonement of Jesus Christ. With righteous desires, actions and daily reflection and repentance, we set the foundation for a condition of joy as we feel the freedom that comes with an unburdened heart. Our hearts are lightened as they are freed from the weight of sin and as the pain of our separation from God is bridged.
Righteousness also invites the Holy Spirit who then witness to us that we are being sanctified before God as we strive through experience, to grow and learn. As we dwell in righteousness through repentance, the spirit resides with us and it brings us Joy “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13).
This righteousness also requires love. Christ has reminded us that there is one great commandment that is above all others. To love God with all our heart, soul and mind and secondly to love our neighbor as our self. This righteous love of God, others, and self are the purest form of righteousness and as such they are the bedrock foundation of a life that can be lived in a condition of joy.
The righteousness that is a prerequisite to the condition of joy requires love for God and our neighbor, and it includes a continual awareness of our own weakness and a constant application of the spiritual strength offered through the atonement of Christ, knowing that we are, in each moment, even now, being glorified together with Christ.
Secondly, we must remember..., always. We must remember that we are children of God, that we are His heirs, and we must live in that knowledge moment by moment, forever building upon the faith that our devine inheritance provides.
We must understand and remember that our suffering is for a purpose and that purpose is for our ultimate good, that our experience is for our glorification. This informed and eternal perspective allows a condition of joy to exist even in the most painful moments of our lives.
As periodic suffering and sorrow come, and they will, we can yet remain in a condition of joy, knowing our suffering and sorrow unite us to Christ. Like him, through our pain, suffering and sorrow we are thrust into the process of becoming greater as we sanctify ourselves and our suffering, consecrating our every effort. Our suffering and sorrow serve a personal, devine, eternal purpose, continual awareness of this knowledge allows for a life lived in the condition of joy.
Thirdly, we work for it. As President Gordon B Hinkley once said: “Work will cure your grief. There is no substitute under the heavens for productive labor. It is the process by which dreams become realities, it is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements.”
Little exceeds the joy of knowing we have completed a job and done well. The purpose of life is a life of purpose, and work, temporal and/or spiritual, with their associated feelings of accomplishment will help to set our minds at ease and can rest our fearful hearts.
Lastly, we must serve. In my own life I have come to learn that the less of me there is in my life, the more joy I feel. When I remain focused on me, on my wants, on my needs, on my feelings, on my failures, I find that feelings of sadness and sorrow follow as I obsess about me, but when I focus on the needs of others, my needs are filled in the process and joy returns.
It is an easy thing to be a consumer of happiness, to be a producer takes effort, but those efforts are greatly rewarded as the product of happiness is also bestowed on the producer.
I testify that although we will not always have the feeling of joy in each moment, as there is opposition in all things, we can yet live in the condition of joy, living righteously, knowing we are children of a great God, understanding we are in the process of becoming something greater, and resting on the eternal gift of Christ’s atonement.
We know the end of the story; we know where the birth of the Savior can lead us. We know that ‘All these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.’ This is joyful news indeed.