My Joy Journey took me on a European tour this month, with stops in Scotland, England and Germany. Coming upon a quote on joy, by C.S. Lewis intrigued me and became the impetus for further exploration. I started with C.S. Lewis’ book, “Surprised by Joy”, traveling with him from his childhood home in Scotland to his days as professor in England on his journey from atheism to Christianity. Ending my journey in Germany with Bach and his composition of “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will miss it. Those who seek find.C.S. Lewis
Many of you remember I began my One Word 2021 journey in January with the word “JOY”. promising regular updates on my progress of learning all God had for me about this tiny word. Today I share my fifth installment on my incredible journey. If you missed any of the previous updates you can read them all HERE, on my special One Word 2021 page on my blog.
C.S. Lewis’ quote above grabbed my attention on a particular day as I searched for a quote for a newsletter. That same morning I sat contemplating recent “joy discoveries”, disappointed at the paltry progress I made with my tiny word friend. In one pithy statement, Lewis arrested my attention and ignited my interest. During my earlier lament over lack of progress, I perceived my “desire” for joy in tact, but here was an epiphany, “those who seek find.” Exactly how robust was my search?
surprised by joy
Without hesitation, I employed an internet search for more joy quotes by C.S. Lewis, endeavoring to expand my banal approach to joy. Many of the quotes I found had their source in his book, “Surprised by Joy”. A brief synopsis of the book indicated it told the story of Lewis’ younger years and his journey from atheism to Christianity. Beguiled by the connection of joy to his conversion, I purchased and devoured the book.
A self-proclaimed dialectician, Lewis’ writings stem from a sagacious, methodical thought process, presented in his own candid fashion. This book was no different, beginning with a dispassionate account of his early home life, education and experiences. He learned at an early age to despise and quench emotion, living instead through books, especially poetry and fantasies. Interwoven throughout his story are vignettes of his encounters with and meditations on joy. Ultimately, it was his pursuit of joy which engendered his faith in God.
Joy: A Man’s Desiring
Lewis’ thoughts on joy largely differed from my own preconceptions; however, the more I leaned into his reasoning, the more I comprehended the singular thread he interlaced within the logic. Jesus, Joy of man’s desiring, whispered through the rationale, leaving Lewis with a deeper longing after every encounter with joy. Indeed, the title of the book speaks it all for Lewis, “Surprised by Joy”, and after my own perusal, I heartily agree.
Abstracting the most provocative quotes, I share them with you here, along with insights I gleaned from their impressions upon my heart. They each tell a story of their own, delightfully augmenting my initial contemplations, while cultivating my inchoate seeds of thought. Spending time in contemplation upon these profound and in some ways bodacious musings of Lewis, illuminated the poverty of my own thoughts on joy. I suspect I have barely plumbed the depths of this tiny word.
Joy is Distinct From Pleasure
As an atheist, Lewis sought joy in pleasure, but kept “missing it”. He described it as a “stab” or “pang”; fleeting, just on the edge of fruition. I find the concept of joy as a “stab”, a longing, true in my own life. I glance at pleasure wondering if perhaps the joy longing I feel, may find fulfillment there.
Lewis came to this conclusion after pursuing “joy” as a possession he could hold indefinitely at will. Valuing his descriptor of joy as a reminder, I concur with his analogy. When I recall joy experiences, they are simply that, a reminder. Possessing only the memory, I savor the past while looking forward in hope to future joy promised.
Joy is an Outcome
As Lewis continued his pursuit of joy, for a time it felt elusive, thus his conclusion that the desire for joy was more a desire for something outside of the experience of joy. This rings true for me, though I failed in putting the thought into words. If my focus is singularly on “joy”, joy becomes elusive; however the more I focus on the truth of Psalm 16:11, my desire shifts to the source of joy in God’s Presence, rather than the desire for joy itself. Jesus, Joy of man’s desiring, indeed.
Joy Equals Moving Closer to Jesus
This quote though from Lewis, comes from a time later in his life when he attempted to explain his pursuit of joy from his Christian perspective. The straightforwardness of the quote beguiles. My striving for joy anywhere outside of God is like expecting the warmth of the fire, but remaining outside.
Joy Destroyed by Greed
The thought conveyed in this quote resonated with me powerfully. Like Lewis, I selfishly pursued joy on more than one occasion, as if it was a destination reached, a possession hoarded. The fruit of the Spirit is not dispensed to the greedy.
Joy is Not in Our Power
After numerous attempts at seeking joy within worldly pleasures, Lewis concluded his own incapacity for apprehending joy. How quickly I detour into pursuing joy within mundane pleasures which provide only transient joy. My temptation dwells not in sinful pleasures, but in my expectation of God’s gifts providing the joy only found in His Presence.
I sometimes wonder if all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.C.S. Lewis
Joy Seeks Jesus; the Object of Its Love
The closer Lewis drew to God, the more he entwined joy and desire. Relishing this further pressing joy into a “kind of love” both perplexed and captivated me. Relegated at first to supposition, upon reconsideration, I saw the validity of his observation. Joy is a desire rooted in the pursuit of the Fount of all pure love and joy.
Joy As a Mere Experience Has No Value
When Lewis considered joy as an event or item of attainment, it had no value; the deeper concept of joy sourced outside of his own strength emerged. Sitting with the truth of this quote, brought to the surface my own primitive thoughts about joy. Joy exists outside of my will or ability, which is where its intrinsic value rests.
jesus joy of man’s desiring
Savoring my time with C.S. Lewis, yielded new thoughts and enlarged my understanding of this tiny word, “JOY”. Lewis’ conclusions on joy welcomed him into the Presence of God, fulfilling years of longing and misguided intentions.
Embracing joy as a desire and God as its object, brought to my mind a favorite classical piece by Johannes Sebastian Bach, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring”. Originally written as a “chorale”, it is but part of a larger cantata, but significantly more popular than its companion movements.
Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.
—from BWV 147, chorale movement no. 6
Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.
—from BWV 147, chorale movement no. 10
Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure,
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own,
In the love of joys unknown.
—from BWV 147, chorale movement no. 12
Both the magnitude of Lewis’ personal discoveries and the grandeur of the words expressed in Bach’s timeless orchestral piece are mere shadows of the lavishness of joy God has for us. Ponder drinking joy from deathless springs as Jesus, Joy of man’s desiring leads in the love of joy unknown.
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