The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevski once commented, “If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, don’t bother analyzing his ways of being silent, of talking, of weeping, of seeing how much he is moved by noble ideas; you will get better results if you just watch him laugh. If he laughs well, he’s a good man.”
There is something inside of us that is attracted to genuine joy.
There is something inside of us that longs for true joy. I believe this desire for joy naturally flows out of the way in which we are formed in our inner being. The Bible claims that we are made in the likeness of God. Joy is part of the very nature of God. (Joy does not exist in this world by accident but flows forth into this world from the character of God.) Therefore, there is something intrinsic in us that longs for joy.
Where does joy come from?
It certainly does not come from our circumstances. Michael Phelps shared that despite his great success and fame as an athlete, he contemplated suicide following the 2012 Olympics. People who are blessed with the most sometimes are miserable; whereas some who suffer the most are filled with joy. So where does joy come from?
I suggest two key components of joy:
1: Care about others.
Think about the people you know. Rarely do you find someone who is miserable who is deeply concerned for others. And rarely do you find someone who is mean-spirited who is deeply joyful.
Care and joy seem to go together. Henry Drummond remarks, “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.” Rich Mullins adds, “I think there is great joy in compassion. I don’t think that you can know joy apart from caring deeply about people—caring enough to actually do something.”
2: Look beyond your circumstances to something or Someone greater.
My former classmate, Greg Asimakoupoulos, shares a story that illustrates this principle,
“On a balmy October afternoon in 1982, Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, was packed. More than 60,000 die-hard University of Wisconsin supporters were watching their football team take on the Michigan State Spartans. It soon became obvious that MSU had the better team. What seemed odd, however, as the score became more lopsided, were the bursts of applause and shouts of joy from the Wisconsin fans. How could they cheer when their team was losing?
“It turns out that seventy miles away the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 1982 World Series. Many of the fans in the stands were listening to portable radios—and responding to something other than their immediate circumstances.”
When we look beyond our troubles to something or Someone greater, we find joy that surpasses our struggles.