This week’s post is about practicing joy. Each week during Lent we’re featuring a post by Indigenous Spiritual Care Chaplain, Lauren Sanders to support your own spiritual traditions and reflection.

Lauren is a multifaith spiritual care provider, which means her worldview tries to be open-hearted, supportive, and respectful. Her faith traditions that power her caregiving are some combination of Christianity and Indigenous ways of being and doing. Lent is a type of season for certain types of Christians. If your faith tradition doesn’t have a “Lenten Season”, please join us anyway as we journey through this false-spring, where we swing between winter’s finish and not-yet-spring. We are learning how to rediscover our sense of wonderment.

“Are you looking for happiness? Or are you looking for joy?”

A few years ago, my therapist asked me this annoying question. Usually, therapy was helpful so I brushed off my annoyance. I had to think about the question.

“Aren’t they the same thing?” I asked, really confused.

“Are they?” my counselor quipped.

I sighed because I know that means “No, Lauren.”

At that time, the difference between happiness and joy was like asking whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. I don’t know, and does it really matter?!

The difference between happiness and joy isn’t in the definition of the words themselves. The difference is how we use them in society. The difference becomes even more apparent when we can’t figure out how to access either happiness or joy.

I learned that happiness can be tied to a hope. Or, happiness can be attached to a dream that is being realized or has already come true. Happiness is tied to the universe’s favor towards me. Happiness is a positive meeting of the things we can control and things we cannot. Happiness is hard to find, because it is somewhat dependent on things outside of our control. Happiness can sometimes be made as we feel a sense of awe.

Joy is hard to find if we don’t love ourselves. Joy is tied to our self-esteem. Joy combines bravery and self-worth. We have to really look inside ourselves and see a valuable human who is worthy of being loved and of loving others. That takes a considerable amount of bravery, especially in light of mental un-health, trauma, oppression, and colonization. Of all that we don’t know about the universe, when we reflect on who we are, what we think about ourselves, and decide “Gurl, you my boo!”: we’ve created joy.

Our joy fuels playful imagination. Our joy can spark a sense of confident curiosity as we peer into the mysteries that will continue to be unknown. Our joy is infectious, but joy has to be practiced.

We can practice joy by looking around and finding what is toxic that we allow in our lives and eliminate it. We can practice joy by connecting to what is healthy for our self-esteem. We can practice joy by practicing wonderment, appreciating our own beauty through our sense of love.

In sacred texts and stories are descriptions of humanity’s and all of creation’s joy and happiness. Our sacred texts and stories teach us to recognize joy and happiness. Sometimes, we even have stories about what the Creator’s joy might be like. (Song of Solomon) *wink*

Psalm 63, attributed to David being in the desert wilderness, is not David’s lament about being away from his family. Instead, the writer of Psalm 63 proclaims love for God. We learn how the writer of Psalm 63 practices joy.

Below is my interpretation of Psalm 63. As you read, let’s spend some time reflecting:

Psalm 63
A melody from a beloved one when they were in the desert of Judah.
God, my God, You…
For you, I frantically look;
For you, my soul thirsts;
For you, my body craves;
Like the earth,
dry and parched
where there is no water.
In a sacred space,
I have gazed at you
To see your strength and abundance.
Because better
Is your loving-kindness than life itself;
On my lips is all adoration of you.
I bless you as long as I live;
in your name, I will lift up my hands.
Like a hearty feast, my soul is happily full;
With joyful lips, my mouth praises you.
You are the last thought on my mind before sleep;
Every night, I meditate on you.
Because You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings,
I shout for joy.
My soul follows close behind you;
supporting me is your right hand.
And those who want to destroy my life?
Get the hell outta here with that!
they will die a gruesome death;
Like Cato in the Hunger Games.
But this leader is joyful in God;
all who are loyal to God spread joy,
especially when the mouth of liars is stopped.

Find all of the Lenten Season Series posts and more on our Ministry Resources page.