"My Friend, Joy"

       The following essay, by Christian author Nicole Johnson, is just about the best explanation and exploration of "Joy" (very close family relative of "Comedy") I've yet come across.  So en-joy!  Especially as "Gaudete Sunday" - "Joy Sunday", the Third Sunday of Advent, is just around the corner.  And is so needed.  I've added the photos (and gif).  So again, I say, en-joy!


by Nicole Johnson
(from Contagious Joy:  Joyful Devotions to Lift Your Spirits, Zondervan, 2006)

         "I met her long before I knew her name; we actually go way back, Joy and I.  As a little girl, she would be with me at times of pure delight:  running through the sprinkler, holding a puppy, riding my bicycle, or playing ball in the yard after dark.  But there were years that I didn’t see much of Joy, and I mistakenly came to think that she only came to visit when I was happy.  She appeared to me a fair-weather friend, and I found it hard to put much stock in her presence.  

         But finding faith in God and living through more of life’s circumstances, Joy has proved to be a better friend than I had thought.  I don’t mean to imply that I know her completely, as I am still learning, but I definitely know her better than I did.  I have come to respect Joy and welcome her presence in my life as often as she embraces me.  Like a deep and complex friend, she has many layers and levels that have taken time to understand and appreciate.

         Joy often arrives unannounced.  She’s not a planner and doesn’t seem to decide until the last minute what she will do.  She won’t clear her calendar to fit into my life or schedule regular appointments with me.  She shows up when she wants to, and she often leaves abruptly, and those aren’t always my favorite qualities in a person.  But joy loves arriving as an unexpected surprise.  Many have missed knowing Joy simply because they don’t like surprises.

         William Wordsworth was surprised by Joy.  In one of his poems, he penned how the sudden surprise of Joy “impatient as the wind” made him quickly look around to share it with his love, and he’s forlorn to discover that he had forgotten her death in that moment of Joy.  C.S. Lewis was also Surprised by Joy.  It is the title of his early autobiography that details how he came to faith in God.  Additionally, a wonderful surprise later in his life was that Lewis fell in love and married a woman named Joy.  He was literally and figuratively surprised by Joy.

         Joy has surprised me by turning up, oddly, when things are going wrong.  Tears may be streaming down my face, and then comes a little knock on my soul’s door.  She arrives bringing a great sense of peace and contentedness, like a little spring bouquet of flowers or a basket of warm bread.

         I cannot manufacture the circumstances that bring Joy to me.  She will not be controlled.  She comes in response to something, always very spontaneous, like wonder or gratitude.  Sometimes I don’t know that she is there, until I look up and see her.  It’s then I wonder how long she had been there before I noticed.  I’ve also discovered, if I try to count on her, or seek her out by herself, she is usually nowhere to be found.

         Sometimes Joy is silent and even seems absent.  But she is never mad or punishing as some people are when they’re silent; she’s just settled.  She doesn’t have to talk all the time or be loud to announce her presence.  She’s equally happy to sit and listen or throw a party.  She doesn’t need to be the center of attention; she is simply content to bring life to a party by helping in the celebration.

         Joy embraces me in these ways, but also all kinds of people.  She will hug a prostitute or wrap her arms around a hurting child.  She is welcoming of anyone who needs a lift.  She has been known to sit down with someone on a park bench and stay all through lunch, providing wonderful companionship and happiness.  She is no respector of persons, and no one knows or owns all of her.  She is very generous to those who welcome her, and she withholds no good thing from those she frequently visits.

          Joy is beautiful, but not physically.  She is not unattractive in any way; it’s just that her physical features are outshone by her essence.  She glows, and in her brightness I’ve never been able to tell the color of her skin or eyes or the shape of her nose.  I don’t know her height, for sometimes she radiates glory from a high place, and other times she laughs and giggles like small child, bidding me to play on the floor.  She can be charming, constantly emanating innocence and warmth, but she is not a charmer.  She is never haughty or vain, and Joy goes out of her way to be pleasant with everyone.

         She has wonderful friends, and loves to introduce them, given the opportunity.  I often find her with her friends because they hang out together an run around as a group.  I’ve met them, and know their names by heart:  Love, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  I have found that they all influence each other a great deal, as good friends do.  The more time they spend together, the more they become like the other, and when I am with them, I am changed too.

         But I have also seen Joy in company that doesn’t seem to become her.  I have walked into a hospital room with Suffering only to see Joy as well, sitting by the bed, holding a patient’s hand.  I wondered to myself, “What is she doing here?  Does she really belong here?”  But when I talk to the person I have come to see, she tells me that she, too, was surprised to find Joy arrived long with Pain, but she was awfully glad she did.  Her presence has a way of making all things better.

         Many people get to know Joy better when they are going through a very difficult period in their lives.  It comes as a shock when they discover, as I did, that she is not the fair-weather friend they first imagined or a bubbly, air-headed, emotional girl that distances herself from hardship.  They see the family resemblance to her cousin Happiness, but they notice that she is altogether different, because Joy will stay in the midst of tough circumstances while Happiness tends to sneak away.  Initially I thought it would hurt her reputation to be connected in any way to Suffering or Pain, but it doesn’t seem to bother her in the least.  She is Joy, and she simply continues being herself.  

         Joy is full of emotional intelligence, but she is simple.  She doesn’t have to understand how things work or what they mean in order to enjoy them.  She is not incapable of understanding, but she loves taking things at face value.  Her kindness and spirit of fun make her great company.  She laughs a lot, and I mean a lot, but I have never seen her make fun of anyone else.  Her humor comes freely and never at the expense of another.  She is full of energy and verve, yet she is not manic or anxious.  Sometimes she will gently tug on my sleeve when she wants to show me something, but she also knows how to put two fingers in her mouth and whistle as loud as a train if she needs to.

         Joy is not wealthy, but neither is she poor.  She is far too smart to be rapped by money, and she’s content with what she has.  For years, I’ve heard people talk about Joy as if she is cliquish with those who have a lot possessions or a great deal of money, but she has revealed that to be false time and again.  I have seen her accompany a rich man on a family outing as well as a poor, homeless woman on the city streets.  Joy is not respecter of money…or persons, for that matter.  She regularly visits those in prison and will even visit those in prisons of their own making, as often as she is allowed entrance.  Joy stands for freedom, but she knows it is found in the heart, not in the circumstances.

         It would be impossible to describe her as thin or fat.  Joy is healthy and robust and takes good care of herself.  She treats her soul with kindness, and everyone else’s as well.  She loves to be in the company of those who are having a good time around the table, but it seems less about the food and more about those who have gathered to dine.  She is almost always seated next to Gratitude, because they are very close.  Joy will socially choose the chair farthest from Selfishness.  She has whispered to me that she finds the conversation lacking.

         Joy comes to us from God.  She is a gift to our lives and our hearts.  He gives Joy to us that we might welcome her as we would a good friend whom we trust.  He wants us to get to now Joy so that our relationship with her is full and complete, and so that Joy will be our strength."