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Redefining Joy During the Holiday Season

Peter Gyulay | Dec 26, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Peter Gyulay | Dec 26, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

We are in the midst of a time of joy and celebration for many people — Hanukkah just ended and Christmas is approaching. Such occasions bring joy and good cheer to people and provide time for friends and family to unite. But joy is more than just an important emotion. 

In the Baha’i writings, joy is seen as a divine quality because it is one of the many attributes of the perfect being that created us all: God. So, what is so profound about this attribute called joy?

Joy and Productivity

On the most basic level, joy enables us to live a productive and full life. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the founder and prophet of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, said, “Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.”

A great source of joy that comes from action is to engage in service of others. In the “Bayan,” the Bab, who was a Manifestation of God who prepared the way for Baha’u’llah, wrote “no act of worship is nearer unto His acceptance than bringing joy to the hearts of the believers, and none more remote than inflicting sorrow upon them.”

RELATED: Finding Joy On the Spiritual Path

Clearly, we function better, at work and at home, if we are joyous. I certainly forget this and can spend too much time worrying about things and  thinking that this is how I should react if I’m faced with a problem. Instead, I should put my trust in God and joyously engage in action.

Joy and Purity

Another profound thing about joy is its potency to purify us. The Bab told his followers to be stainlessly pure in thought, word and deed so that they may recognize the truth. Interestingly, this also included being joyful: “God desireth not to see… any soul deprived of joy and radiance. He indeed desireth that under all conditions, all may be adorned with such purity, both inwardly and outwardly, that no repugnance may be caused even to themselves, how much less unto others.”

Similarly, in “The Hidden Words,” Baha’u’llah wrote: “Rejoice in the gladness of thine heart, that thou mayest be worthy to meet Me and to mirror forth My beauty.”

Does this mean that we should rejoice that we have the chance to draw closer to God? Or does it mean that in order to draw closer to God, we need to be joyful? Who is to say it cannot mean both? 

But in considering the second interpretation, I think it could mean that joy actually prepares us to meet God. It purifies our heart of the darkness and gloom of negative emotions that are like mud on our shoes that we do not want to drag into God’s presence.

Sometimes, we can feel too ashamed to be joyful. Baha’u’llah urges us to reflect on our actions each day, but we often don’t just reflect on our shortcomings — we dwell on them. Instead of simply identifying our shortcomings and improving them, we try to redeem ourselves by reprimanding ourselves and rehashing our mistakes again and again. 

RELATED: Forgiving Yourself For the Sake Of Others

What sense is there in being miserable? After we acknowledge our weaknesses, we can focus on the positives and move on in a spirit of joy.

Joy and the Purpose of Life

Not only does joy invigorate and purify us; it also constitutes our very nature and purpose in life. In “The Divine Art of Living,” Abdu’l-Baha is quoted as saying that spiritual happiness “is the true basis of the life of man, for life is created for happiness, not for sorrow; for pleasure, not for grief. Happiness is life; sorrow is death. Spiritual happiness is life eternal. This is a light which is not followed by darkness. This is an honor which is not followed by shame. This is a life that is not followed by death. This is an existence that is not followed by annihilation. This great blessing and precious gift is obtained by man only through the guidance of God.”

To me, this means that happiness is our natural state of being. While we often find it hard to be joyous, this is because we have lost touch with our inherent spiritual nature. 

Spirituality is not a somber domain. Rather, it is a vibrant and joyous celebration of life. It involves moments of solemn regret and anguish but is colored mostly with the divine light of God, which can only make us happy. Yes, there are things to change about ourselves, things to sacrifice and develop with great effort, but it is a joy to strive and live a pure and joyous life under the loving gaze of our Maker.

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