Surprised by Joy

“To be surprised by joy is something quite different from naïve optimism. Optimism is the attitude that makes us believe that things will be better tomorrow. An optimist says: “The war will be over, your wounds will be healed, the depression will go away, the epidemic will be stopped. All will be better soon.” The optimist may be right or wrong, but, whether right or wrong, the optimist does not control the circumstances.

Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world. It does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives. Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world. Jesus says it loudly and clearly: “In the world you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world….”

There is an intimate relationship between joy and hope. While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will go better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with the deep trust that God will never leave us alone but will fulfill the deepest desire of our heart.

Joy in this perspective is the fruit of hope. When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps, I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within and around me.”

By Henri Nouwen from Here and Now