Joy, like love, is intangible. You cannot touch joy, but you can similarly feel its “sweetness that pours into everything,” as Helen Keller said. Joy, like love, is something experienced, and joy is inextricably linked with love. Joy, like love, is not a lonely experience. Joy is something experienced in communion and community with God and with others—our families, friends, neighbors . . . even, inexplicably, our enemies. Joy can’t be sought after the way pleasures can be. Rather, joy is a gift given from a Giver who desires to give, not just occasionally, but continually—and eternally. Similarly, joy does not happen to us the way happiness can, dependent on circumstances that are sometimes in our control, but often out of our control.
We might not be happy every day; in fact, we might face suffering every day. But we can have joy every day. Running after joy is akin to holding a cup upside down. Joy is there, waiting to be given, but it doesn’t enter in. Rather than running after joy the way we might seek after pleasures or happy circumstances, we must instead rest and reorient ourselves into a posture of receiving, not running. The practices I share here are meant to help us reorient ourselves, to turn our cup right side up so that joy enters, and we exclaim, in the words of the psalmist, “My cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5).
In the hours before his betrayal and death, Christ filled a cup with wine and offered it to his disciples. Before this, he spoke of love and joy to them: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:11–12). Christ loved us with the greatest love of all. If the joy of the Resurrection could only have happened because of Christ’s sacrificial love for us on the Cross, then we will only fully experience joy through love and self-sacrifice. If we could define how to experience joy, it would be this: joy is experienced through the giving and receiving of sacrificial love.
-Phoebe Farag Mikhail, Putting Joy Into Practice: Seven Ways to Lift Your Spirit from the Early Church