Joy is often thought of as a reaction to circumstances. Get the right things together - friends, possessions, and so on - and poof! You have joy! Like touching two live electric wires together and getting a spark.
But if joy really is generated by circumstances, then happiness has no more substance, and no more staying power, than that fleeting spark. And it would be a difficult thing to hang on to.
Joy, though, doesn't really depend on circumstances; nor is it hampered by them. It's a quality that comes from God. And because it comes from God, it's substantial; it's eternal, unchanging. Joy is a natural constituent of man's being.
The man we're talking about isn't a mortal. He's the radiant expression of God. The Father, divine Love, continuously delights in His loved creation. Man expresses the Father's joy. True happiness, then, isn't selfish, and it has no taint of sin. It's pure, selfless, and spiritual.
If our lives lack the sparkle and peace of real joy, perhaps we need to think about beingm the man we really are. For instance, since God is Love and man is the image of Love, our true identity, unseen by the physical senses, embodies all that is good and loving. This spiritual individuality includes joy. To the degree that we express the qualities of Love - are unselfish, affectionate, and cognizant of everyone's God-given selfhood - our hearts overflow with joy. In fact, we can't help being happy!
On the other hand, if we're being selfish, resentful, or condemning of others , we tend to lose joy, because there's nothing of God's image in those thoughts and actions - there's nothing of Love expressed.
The same is true for all God-derived qualities. Whenever honesty, strength, faith, patient caring - any of the elements of spiritual beauty and goodness - are expressed, our real being is shining through, filling mind and heart and blessing those around us. And with this shining comes irrepressible joy.
All of this was vividly brought home to me at a time of aching loneliness. As I prayed to understand God's love for me, I remembered something our Master, Christ Jesus, once told his disciples: ''Freely ye have received, freely give.'' n1 Suddenly those words took on fresh meaning. I realized that all the love I needed was already flowing freely to me from God, eternally - ''freely ye have received.'' But if this love was to fill my heart and brighten my days, I needed to express it - ''freely give.''
n1 Matthew 10:8.
So I set about loving as purely as I knew how. I endeavored to honestly cherish others - to reflect more of God's delight in His creation. There were lessons to be learned, and my efforts were just a start. But the transformation was wonderful. As affection filled my thoughts, I couldn't help rejoicing in the people I met throughout the day. I more easily saw the goodness in others, and sparkles of friendship filled my relations with them. I felt as though everyone was my friend. It was one of the happiest times of my life.
Real joy always comes from the spiritual goodness we express. Mary Baker Eddy , the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can.'' n2
n2 Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 17.
Because each of us is actually already the image of God, we all have the capability to understand and demonstrate the Christly qualities belonging to man. Joy is one of these qualities, and it wells up as we work at being who we really are. DAILY BIBLE VERSE In thy presence is fulness of joy. Psalms 16:11