A hopeful value


I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:11

What it is:

Joy is a deep sense of delight and inner wellbeing. 

While certain things can give you an increased sense of joy at particular moments, joy is also a more constant inner quality that grows from delight in the present, hope for the future and a knowledge of purpose and meaning. Christians have testified over the centuries to the joy that comes from hope in Christ, and how that joy has sustained them through hardships and pain and persecution.

Joy comes from the knowledge that, whatever the present circumstances, in the words of Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

What it is not:

Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is an emotion that relies on immediate circumstances, whereas joy can still exist under hardship and pain.

Joy can come from giving, whereas happiness is essentially a “taking” state.

Joy is a product of meaning, and therefore of hope.

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans

Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”
If you want to look deeply at Biblical Joy, this is a good introduction.

What makes this a Christian value?

Joy is closely tied to hope, meaning and purpose. 

Christian joy should be more resilient than secular joy because Christian hope can co-exist with situations that have no apparent solution. If God exists, God must be bigger than any present difficulty. Even more remarkably, Christian hope reaches beyond the inevitability of death, so joy can co-exist with sorrow and loss.

The difference between joy and happiness is evident in the Bible, which repeatedly talks of Christians experiencing joy through persecution and pain, as if sorrow prepares for and enlarges the capacity for joy. (John 16:20, Rom-3-4; 2 Car7:4,8:2; Heb 10:34; Jas 1:2).

When the shepherds were told about the birth of Jesus, they were told this was a cause of great joy. The coming of Christ would change life for humanity at a deep level (Lk 2:10)

For C.S. Lewis, joy is both a steady stream in our lives, and the result of certain experiences. Joy is when we suddenly glimpse something of heaven.

When we work with our students, we’re not offering them an alternate world view. Despite this website, our main goal is not to offer them a set of values to live up to. We are passing on what we ourselves have been offered: the promise of God who alone fulfils all the longings, and quells all the fears, that humanity has ever experienced. We are passing on the promise of life with God now and forever. If we wonder what the new heavens and new earth will be like, if we wonder what God has for us beyond death, God has given us hints. We’re given glimpses, tastes, whenever we experience joy.

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.

Teilhard de Chardin