While we’re on the broad topic of contentment and joy and happiness, I would like to ask what robs you of these things? While I argued in my last post that we will never feel full contentment in this lifetime, a few posted comments reminding me of the importance of joy. One even said she would doubt the Christian faith if we all walked around ungrateful all the time. Great point. We need–and have huge reason–to be joyful. Yet what percentage of my day is actually spent in a joyful state of mind.
Being a morning person, those early hours are my best bet for the feeling of joy to overwhelm me. I’ve always hated going to sleep (just ask my parents about the joys of trying to get me to abide by my bedtime) because bedtime makes morning feel so far away. So when morning finally comes back, I’m happy. The sun, coffee, breakfast, early a.m. reading or a run–when I manage to squeeze it in–make me joyful. Yet it takes incredibly small missteps or reminders of incredibly small problems to steal that joy. By 8:30 a.m. I am usually stressed again and too busy for joy.
When I ask myself what those missteps and problems are, I realize I have no excuse to allow them to steal my joy. The real people who I would allow to fall victim to joy stealers are people like the characters in a novel I’m in the middle of: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. For five years during WWII, they lived isolated, cut off from communication with the outside world due to German occupation of their tiny island. They’re fictional but represent people that actually suffered that. They didn’t have sugar or flour so made “desserts” like potato peel pie. Gross. I always say fruit is not dessert, so starchy bland vegetables certainly don’t land anywhere near my definition for a sweet-tooth fix.
Point is, what steals my joy shouldn’t. But this lesson has been taught us a million times over hasn’t it? I think this post thus far has been more self-talk for me than a dissection of a “hard question.” So I must remain true to my series and now ask you something more difficult to confront: Why, assuming it is our choice, do we let our joy be stolen?
When I’m joyful, I feel alive. When I’m sad, I also feel alive, just a different type of aliveness. So sadness and joyfulness are ok. It’s the anger and bitterness that do not make me feel alive. In fact, they make me feel dead and not myself. It is these I often trade for joy. Therefore, in a way, I am trading life for death. And it feels completely natural and startlingly easy to do so. Is this simply proof of our fallenness? To choose the dead over the living? In this light, the question of what steals my joy suddenly seems much more serious. What minor detail causes me to choose death over life? And what would years’ worth of choosing this mean for my soul?