A Life of Joy

By Rev. Michael Gott

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In Unity, we teach that the qualities of the Divine are present within us, and we can call them forward into our lives consciously. The spiritual quality of joy is simply part of our nature as expressions of Spirit, as children of God. It’s in us, now and always. It’s not dependent on the circumstances of our lives.

According to Unity principle, we can experience and express the joy of God even in the most difficult times of our lives.

I find that easier said than done.

I do believe in the absolute reality of Spirit and it’s true that joy is always present. I also know there are times in life when it seems a million miles away. In the midst of loss and grief, in times of fear and uncertainty, indeed, in many times in our lives that what we might call our “dark nights,” we may not feel joyful.

Does this mean God isn’t present? Does this mean we’ve done something wrong? No. It means we are human.

The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 (RSV): “Jesus wept.” The story tells us when the Master arrived too late to heal his beloved friend Lazarus, he saw the tears on the faces of those who also loved this man, and he responded in the most human way. He cried too. We sometimes think we must transcend our human experience to find God. I believe we reveal God by being fully human.

Ernest Holmes once wrote “humanity is divinity revealed.” How do we reveal spiritual reality in our human circumstances?

There are two practices that have been so helpful to me in my spiritual walk. First: Be compassionate toward myself. Give my inner perfectionist/critic the day off and accept that where I am is good enough. I can stop pretending. I don’t have to put on a false spirituality to hide how human I am. I find this brings a feeling of relief. It’s okay not to feel buoyant and light all the time. Something in me relaxes, surrenders, and allows life to unfold.

And then I can use the second practice, which is simply to walk by faith. I trust the “joy of the Lord is my strength” and this joy is already here—whether I can access it in the moment or not. I also know in my spirit and in my heart that the full expression and experience of my joy will return. I will feel my joy again.

Psalm 30:5 (KJV) reminds us that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” When we are willing to feel our sadness, or our anger or frustration, it opens our capacity to feel everything more fully. We become able to feel our joy more deeply and more authentically.

In the season of Christmas, we are given the opportunity to birth the light of Christ into our lives anew. Can we find the courage to imagine living in joy—a joy that is so rich, so deep, so robust, that it carries us and sustains us through every struggle and challenge we face?