Defining Sparks of Joy

I felt them. Like flecks of light in the dark, little sparks of joy have flitted in and out of my life these past couple weeks.

That begs the question.

What is joy?

I guess I should try to define joy first. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it in three different ways:

  • The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotion
  • A state of happiness or felicity
  • A source or cause of delight

As I wrestle with the meaning of joy, I’ve found that the joy I’m after doesn’t fit well into these definitions.

The first two tend to rely on emotion as their base. Happiness is an emotion. Emotions are fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow. External circumstances can turn our emotions on a dime.

The third definition gets more at what I’m after. Joy is not an emotion, but in my mind, it is the result, not the source.

What do I see as joy?

Joy is something that shows up in unexpected places, almost like a peace that says to me, “Take heart. God is near. God has this. And you are right where you need to be at this point and time.” It’s not a feeling or emotion. It’s more like a gift from God.  He is the source of my joy.

How do I know that?

I can point to two specific instances where I’ve felt joy as this state rather than emotion.

The first one happened three years ago. My cousin Whitney was dying of cancer. At this point three years ago exactly, she had maybe one week before her faith became sight. Throughout that summer of 2015, happy would not be the way I described myself. Joyful? Not in terms of what the dictionary says.

But during that time, I felt something indescribable. It was a mix of peace, happiness, and lightness all together. It was joy. True, biblical joy. I knew that unless God worked a miracle, Whitney would soon be with Him. I think the knowledge that I would see her again and that God was sovereign brought those sparks of joy into my dark place of mourning.

The second one happened fairly recently when Steve had his surgery. Though I was so exhausted both emotionally and physically, stressed, and yes, worried, I felt an indescribable peace, as if Steve and I were where God wanted us to be at that point in time. It was almost like God were nudging me and saying, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” Did that make things get easier? My duties didn’t change, nor did they necessarily get any easier. But I knew God is sovereign and is on His throne.

How would I define this kind of joy?

Joy is indescribable peace that comes in unexpected times and from knowing that I serve a sovereign God who is actively involved in my life.

Question: When have you had a time where you have experienced a spark of joy?

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