Chara. Joy. Used at least 60 times in the New Testament. The 2nd *fruit* Paul lists as a fruit of the spirit: love, joy...
C.S. Lewis wrote a whole book about joy: Surprised by Joy. It was a bit of a joke amongst his friends because it was while writing it he met & fell in love with an American woman called, of all things, Joy!
But what is joy & how do I get it? What I have decided it is not is in how the giddy world would define it. It is not to be found in things, or people or places. Money won't buy it but I have found it in grief. It is not simply happiness but it always has elements of a deep & fundamental peace.
In 2006, just before Christmas, my Brother, Mark, was killed in a low level flying accident. My mother rang with the news very early in the morning & for the 2nd time in 2 years we began the process of grieving a husband, father, son, brother. There were tears ~ & plenty of them. Mark was very like my Star: outrageously extroverted, happy~go~lucky, sunny natured, very warm & popular ~ & dead. It is such a stark word & Mark's death was so totally out of left field, unexpected, unbelievable, impossible.
I was asked to speak at Mark's remembrance service, as I had spoken at my father's also. My nearest & dearest are always a little askance on these occasions. They do, after all, know me rather well. I am the one who will howl at the sad bits in sentimental movies ~ & the happy bits. I am prone to bursting into tears just because something is beautiful, or brave, or...well, just because....So you know, relying on me to keep it together when everyone around me is in a highly emotional state is a bit like expecting the PM to walk on water. Not going to happen. Only it does.
It happens because the word most closely associated with chara is charis, grace. It the midst of grief & turmoil grace is extended & joy abounds. I am much better at articulating the intellectual aspects of belief than I am at discussing the personal relationship I have with God. It sounds so mad when you start putting it in to words. It is mad. There is no logic to it. Yet I have experienced it over & over again in my life. I am like a plummeting stone into still water; I come to rest on the bottom & the ripples close over my head.
God is the eye of my storm. He is the depth of my ocean where no wave can break. He is the stars singing in the morning & a pillar of fire by night. He is not my happiness because joy is more than simply happiness. Happiness is fleeting & dependant on fickle circumstance. Joy is unchanging & the circumstances do not alter it. It has elements of hope & trust. So I was able to return from farewelling my brother & keep my appointment to deliver a message to my church family, not because I am particularly brave but because grace abounds & where there is grace there is joy.
To use a Quaker analogy, those who have found the secret of Life glow with the Inner Light. No, they may not sing the loudest, or praise the mightiest, or pray the longest but they radiate with the Spirit & in times of trouble & affliction they hold steady because they believe: Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. It is not, as we are so prone to believe, all about us. It is not simplistically just letting go & letting God. It is found in the renewing of our minds, in changing our thinking & lifting our eyes of ourselves to the One who holds the power of life & death in His hands, who is our strength & our refuge, our hope, our joy. Our joy is found in Christ but we have to live it out in our lives.
And I have noticed something else. The less I have of *things* the more I am full of joy. There is a deep pleasure in simplicity. It prevents us becoming jaded by the world & the things of the world. It is more likely to give us an appetite for the things of God rather than worldly pleasures. Surrounding ourselves with what God has made lifts the heart. Surrounding ourselves with what man has made is not good for our souls.
Charis. Chara. Grace & joy. Where one is the other abounds. We need more of it because one thing is for sure, the World wants it & if they think we have it they will come seeking our secret.