I've been contemplating joy lately.
I always thought that it was a choice. You could choose to celebrate life or choose to focus on whatever was annoying you at the moment.
Lately I've been wondering if it is a gift.
C.S. Lewis noted that at times God will send a strong sense of His presence, a desire to be with Him, the ability to withstand temptations with ease. "But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be." (The Screwtape Letters)
It occurs to me that God is an extremely joyful being, and when His presence is near, we can't help but feel it. Yet, like C.S. Lewis describes, sometimes life is hard, and God isn't easily felt. Is it possible to practice joy as a discipline even when God feels far away?
In scripture, joy is almost a command. Rejoice, it says.
What if the answer is both? What if in the normal day-to-day, joy is a discipline? Focusing on gratitude and celebration can produce a great deal of joy. Living in the moment. Practicing God's presence. All of those things can bring freedom and enjoyment of life.
But, there are times of grief and mourning when joy doesn't come easily. In those times, joy comes whenever it comes. It can't be manufactured. It can't be faked. In those times, joy is truly a gift. Short lived, but coming in waves, until eventually, you are back to the day-to-day.