I love the idea of joy. Who does not like being around joyful people? Who does not want to be full of joy? I certainly do. But this idea that all the beauty of the world rests on joy hits a snag. Though Louise Bogan said that, she was twice placed in psychiatric hospitals because of severe depression. Though she believed joy was at the heart of all things, she had no joy. I read Buechner’s statement that we have God’s joy in our blood and believe that to be theologically true. Yet…is that what I see consistently in people? Is that what I experience? Honesty requires me to answer no to both of those questions. This forces me to ask why there is not more joy in us. If God’s joy is in my blood why isn’t there more joy in me? I turned that around to get a different angle on it in my last blog and essentially began considering the fact if joy is in our blood but I’m not joyful, I must be doing something that is squashing that joy. What is it that I do to keep from experiencing it? I posed the question, “how can I limit joy in my life?” Here are a few more thoughts on that topic.
Another way to make sure I have no joy is to always insist on being right. A long time ago a sappy movie had the line “love means never having to say you’re sorry” in it. That, of course, was one of the most untrue things ever said, for real love requires saying you’re sorry. Oddly it is easy for us to believe “happiness means never having to say you’re sorry.” Something inside us tells us that we must always be right. We must always be respected. We must always win the argument. So often we fail to reflect on the fact that God makes a big deal out of being humble, which means quit trying to prove how smart, capable and right we are. We fail to consider that he makes a big deal out of humility because he wants us to experience joy. How rarely we notice that when we insist on being right continually we actually drive others away, but that they are drawn toward us when we humble ourselves and admit our weaknesses. And it is in close relationships with others that we will find great joy. So by all means, if we want to avoid joy we must make sure everyone in every situation knows that we are right!
An absolutely certain way for me to eliminate joy from my life is to concern myself with what people think. The fact is that people don’t think about us nearly as much as we think they do, and when they do think about us some of them are going to find fault and be critical no matter what we do. The simple reality is that there will be no point in your life when everyone will think well of you. Part of the reason Paul, the apostle, was joyful and wrote a lot about joy was that in his heart he could say things like “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court” (1 Corinthians 4:3) and “we were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thessalonians 2:6). He understood what Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.” There is cruel tyranny in worrying about what people think. It traps us. In fact as long as we are driven by that concern we will be fearful and we will never be free. Since it is nearly impossible for joy to exist while fear is in control this is an excellent way to guarantee that we will have little or no joy in our lives.
Never serve anyone is another good suggestion for the person who wants to make sure he has no joy in his life. It is a strange thing that we think the sure road to happiness is to take care of good old number one above all else. Yet when that is our approach in life somehow we end up feeling empty inside. The joy that we are certain we will grasp by looking out for our own interests to the exclusion of all else somehow seems to slip out of our grasp and leave us more frustrated than ever.
A couple of quick tips for the person who wants no joy, make sure you spend a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself, and live isolated from other people as much as possible (after all, people really complicate your life).
Finally, if you are serious about having no joy in your life, whatever you do, do not spend time praising God and giving thanks. If you ever start thanking God for the ocean of grace and goodness he continually pours in your life you might find your heart starting to lift. Psalm 71:23 says, “my lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you.” Yep, if you start praising God and thanking him you might begin to feel joyful because of all that he has done for you, and that, of course, is the last thing you want, right?
I am sure that there are many other things we can do to ensure a joyless existence. These were just some of the ones that seem to be most effective in my life in obliterating joy. Try them and you’ll see, you’ll end up with a near total lack of joy. Ah, but you’re thinking, “yeah, but, strange as it may seem, I think I’d like to have joy in my life. How do I get it?” Well, if you’re going to insist on having joy stay tuned. I’ll do some ruminating about that one in my next installment.