Monday, October 7, 2013

The hallmark of true Christian discipleship - joy over happiness

In the secular world, most people chase happiness.  This is not something new or groundbreaking.  People in marketing and sales are constantly hawking things that will purportedly bring some degree of happiness if their product is purchased.  Happiness however, is always fleeting, and dependent heavily on the externals and one’s feelings.  Yes, it can be bought, and many don’t think much about how shallow a life based on the pursuit of plain happiness can be. 

But joy is something that is markedly different and something that is unique to spiritual persons.  A spiritually mature person will have trained himself or herself in the ways not of happiness but of joy – the joy that comes from the inner conviction that God is always present no matter how the feelings or emotions are.  In my case, I have ‘good’ days, and I have ‘not so good’ days.  It hasn’t been that ‘good’ lately, but it hasn’t changed my inner joy of being at peace with my God and the fact that I am doing his will. 

But is it that difficult to differentiate between joy and happiness?  Do only people who ponder about life and faith make that distinction, and refuse to confuse the two?  I am not surprised at all that many of us may be baptized, confirmed and been Catholics for years or even decades and only equate joy with happiness when things are going well.  It doesn’t take faith to be joyful when things are going well.  Even the pagans think this way.  But the disciple of Christ needs to constantly step out of that proverbial ‘comfort zone’, to still maintain some sort of inner joy despite the fact that the situation/s one is facing may not be pleasant nor comfortable.  After all, we do not live for this life only, and the Christian is called to a faith that believes that this life is merely a stepping-stone, a training ground for something eternal called heaven.  The ‘training’ that each of us receives comes in different forms.  Most of the time, this ‘training’ involves some kind of suffering, something that asks of us to ‘hang in there’ and to believe that we are not ever going to be abandoned by God. 

When does a Christian manage to come to that state of life when despite the odds facing him/her, there is that inner conviction of joy about life?  I am convinced that it is first of all a tremendous grace given by God.  It is very much connected with faith, and we as recipients of this grace, can only say that much.  To a person who only has one definition of joy (which is equated with simple, shallow happiness) our words and our sharings about that subtle or not-so-subtle difference end up just being that – words.  To them, illness cannot exist with joy.  Poverty cannot co-exist with joy.  Failure and joy cannot exist in the same sentence.  In short, everything has to be perfectly aligned in order for some semblance of joy to exist. 

Joy, a Christian virtue, should be something that we all truly seek in life, because it is closely connected with our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Was there joy on Calvary on that first Good Friday?  It certainly wasn’t any form of shallow happiness, but if we contemplate long enough on Jesus’ conviction of doing the Father’s will, there had to be a hidden joy – so deep that it didn’t matter what he went through for the love of the Father and his will.

Perhaps it is this inability for many to appreciate this difference that we see many a dour face when there are troubles and tests in our lives.  If the Christian is only waiting for things to turn around, to get better, to become ‘all good’ before one is truly convinced of God’s presence in one’s life, one may not be a Christian with a deep faith, but rather, a disguised pagan at best. 

On my ‘not-so-good’ days, I may hardly be able to force out a smile.  But it does not take away the inner joy that I have as a disciple of the Lord.  I can only pray that more and more Christians begin to contemplate on the grounds of their faith, and become aware that we are not in this life to merely be happy, but to live in a joy that surpasses all understanding.  That way, when we do receive ‘bad’ news, or have ‘not-so-good’ days we truly can say ‘it’s alright’.  Because God is always all right.


  1. Good morning Fr Luke. There is a simplicity in joy......thank you for all blogs preciously shared. Have a good day. Mat.

  2. Good morning Fr Luke, thank you for all your inspiring posts a) these while. Yes, you are right. At times when we are not feeling alright, we just need to focus our mind and heart to God. Knowing that His love is ever present, unfailing and unconditional. It is through His love that we are saved, and so to live a life of simple joy that no other can give.

    Peace be with you.

  3. Dear Father Luke, I have been following your blog regularly. I draw much inspiration from you and your writings. Thank you for continuing to do God's work. I have always wondered why God allows so much suffering. Your blog today helps me realize that I have not been differentiating joy from happiness.

  4. Dear Fr Luke, yes it's very difficult to smile when one feels so lousy. On such days, I just lie down and rest, and don't want to make those around me feel helpless with my sighing and groaning.
    Thank you for all your inspiring blogs and may God continue to watch over you. God bless you, Father Luke.

  5. “When does a Christian manage to come to that state of life when despite the odds facing him/her, there is that inner conviction of joy about life? I am convinced that it is first of all a tremendous grace given by God........... very much connected with faith...........................”

    Coming hot on the heels of yesterday’s beautiful mass readings on Faith, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with what you wrote above, that – there is indeed a connection between faith and joy. In St Paul’s letter to Timothy (1:6-8,13-14) he reminds us that faith ( like joy) is a gift from God. However, it is not meant to be hidden but to be fanned into a flame, to be shared. He hinted that this would entail hardships and suffering too but there is an utter conviction that God’s Spirit would be pushing us through. It is this note of confidence that God is actively involved in the happenings around us/ of the world and what He has begun He would bring to a conclusion...........but all in His own time as He promised to Habakkuk (1:2-3, 2:2-3) – that gives one a deep sense of peace and joy.

    Perhaps, this is what is meant by having a relationship with God...........a relationship of love and trust. No wonder the psalmist in today’s Office of Readings can chant thus:-
    On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night for you have been my help;
    In the shadow of your wings I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.
    Joy carries with it a sense of settled contentment, confidence and hope which is not affected by externals/circumstances (like you said) and it could be a consequence of faith.

    God bless you, Fr.


  6. Thank you for sharing with us and God have mercy on you and bless you with his peace Fr. Luke.

  7. Father Luke,

    Good luck to you and God bless. You are in our prayers.

    Tony and Naoko

  8. Dear Fr. Luke,

    I am your regular reader even though I do not always leave a comment. Thank you for reminding us that JOY in life comes from trusting GOD and indeed this Joy surpasses all understanding.

    Remembering you in our prayers.
    Patricia & Ray xx

  9. Very true over this sharing of His good news, Fr Luke. Whenever I close my eyes & take a deep breath with the thought of the Joy from within, it's simply miracle with the peace that I can feel as I breathe out. A gift from above; a promise from Him

  10. Happy St Luke's Day, Fr Luke!

    Get well soon & be back to the House of Lord to preach the Good News! We all love you and long to hear your homilies.

    Peace be with you!

  11. Blessed Feast Day Fr Luke,and may the Good Lord fill you with His Divine Energy and shield you with Divine Light.:)

  12. Happy Feast Day Fr Luke! God bless you with every good.Pax et bonum

  13. May your patron Saint, St Luke pray for your speedy recovery & for your continuous gift of humility & charity. :) God bless+

  14. Happy Feast Day, Fr Luke! May God bless you with good health so that you can continue to touch many hearts & glorify & honour God just like your patron saint, St Luke. Had prayed specially for you at Mass this morning - Maria

  15. Dear Fr Luke

    Thanks for such an insightful and joyful post. You have reminded me what I'm beginning to forget: that joy comes from having God in our lives. Thank you for staying strong and connected to your inner joy, to God, and hence sharing God's words to us. I pray that you will have more and more good days to come, and strength in your not-so-good days. Hang on there Fr. God God bless.