The Divine Nature of Joy

By Kate Barker | Assistant Director

This third week of Advent we are invited to reflect on Joy. After humming the famous melody that accompanies Isaac Watts’ words based on Psalm 98, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”, I become more deeply and slowly absorbed in a variety of reflections about joy. I wonder if reflecting on joy is absorbing for you, too?

For me reflecting on joy is similar to reflecting on grief. While this might seem strange to say, please stick with me for a moment. I wonder if joy and grief are more closely related than we might think.

I have experienced joy in response to the revelation of God in nature and in people, like in the hues of a glorious winter sunrise and the spontaneous laughter of a colleague punctuating a workday. I have also experienced joy in response to God’s presence with me in how God loves and cares for me, like receiving comfort at a time of painful loss. Even in such a moment of grief, I was surprised by joy, as C.S. Lewis says.

Joy and grief are complex and universally experienced, sometimes unexpected, often in relational contexts, and thus, dynamic in nature. In our lives and in our world, joy and grief coexist as if in a dance. Both joy and grief bring up in us longings and responses to things that are beyond ourselves.

As I reflect on these two seemingly different ideas and experiences, I wonder if we experience joy as deeply as we experience grief. Are we as marked by joy as we are sometimes marked by grief? Mary Oliver, in her poem Don’t Hesitate, writes “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it…. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

Joy, as it is described throughout scripture, points to the divine love of God. God’s love extends salvation to us through the birth of Jesus which we anticipate this Advent season (Luke 1:14, 2:10).

Reflecting on joy might bring to mind a variety of emotions, experiences and memories, or relationships. What comes to your mind when you reflect on joy?

My prayer is that we are able to deeply receive and experience the joy that is gifted to us in and through the love of God revealed to us in Jesus and in each other. During this week in Advent here is a prayer offered by the community at Taizé:

The kingdom of God is justice and peace,

And joy in the Holy Spirit;

Come, Lord and open in us the gates of your kingdom.

By Kate Barker | Assistant Director

Center for Faithful Business

Seattle Pacific University

Dr. JoAnn Flett, Executive Director


We want to hear from you!

Contact us with questions or comments, or to find out how you can support the Faith & Co. mission.