By Amber Kinloch
Do you ever struggle to live joy in daily life? I do. Too often, I’m inclined to confuse it with the conscious feeling of happiness.
That’s not joy, though; joy is a virtue, a state of mind, not a feeling. You can possess it even amidst the greatest sufferings. You can even radiate it without realizing it. But how?
What Sucks Away Joy
Many things can rob us of our joy. A morose manner. Dissatisfaction. Frustration and discouragement. Laziness in serving God. An attachment to sin.
But it doesn’t stop there. One can mostly avoid sinning and still lack joy. Conversely, one can struggle mightily with sin and possess joy. Why?
The answer is love.
Have you ever read a list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? The first fruit is charity. The second is joy. Put another way, if we have charity, joy will follow. On the other hand, if we consciously lack love, we will also lack joy.
The Need for Joy
You might think (as I once did) that joy just isn’t your virtue. Maybe it feels like chasing after a butterfly and always missing catching it.
But joy is not optional in the spiritual life. As St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Everyone who wants to make progress in the spiritual life needs to have joy.” (Commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, 4, 1)
Similarly, how are we to help others grow without it? As Mother Teresa advises: “joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls… A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.”
4 Tips for Cultivating Interior Joy
1. Remember your identity.
You’re God’s child—His own, precious child who represents a unique facet of Him. There’s no substitute for you, no replacement. Anytime you like, you can go to Him and lean your head on His Breast. Even when you avoid Him, He finds ways of slipping into your life. He’ll never abandon you.
Can there be anything more reassuring?
2. Be present.
A friend reminded me about how greatly God desires our presence. He wants us to be with Him during periods of prayer, while we’re working, at times of rest and leisure… all the time. It’s not easy and yet it’s so simple.
If you’re lacking joy, try your best to quiet yourself and just “be” with God for 10–15 minutes. If your mind’s swirling, break out pen and paper and jot it all down while trying to bear in mind God’s presence. It really does help.
3. Trust. You can always begin again.
This is still a struggle for me. God’s Mercy is endless. My confidence that He’ll forgive me when I’ve racked up a load of sin and wonder if I’ll ever succeed in changing? Highly variable.
Still, Jesus says: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 723). So, I press on, always fighting so that I don’t repent out of mere habit. More often than not, after reluctantly going to God and seeing His pardon, I feel greatly restored.
4. Look outward.
When we’re discouraged or upset, it’s too easy to get absorbed in ourselves. Turning our gaze outward to helping others (writing a letter, doing an annoying chore, calling a friend, etc.) can be a serious aid in restoring lost joy.
Above all, remember, it’s not about you or me. It’s about God. If we have Him, that’s enough.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.