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Called to Joy

Advent is a time of joyful expectation. Yet it is easy, especially in these times of division and conflict, to get bogged down, overburdened by the weight of all that we are carrying in our lives and in our hearts. Going to sleep stressed or worried is a reality for many people, and it can even seem that happiness at the moment is tantamount to callousness.

So how can we live out our vocation to joy amid today’s present evils or looming uncertainty?

In a word, gratitude.

Brother David Steindl-Rast OSB, in his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, states, “It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Similarly, Dr Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, in her book Daring Greatly describes joy as “a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”

Now, “gratitude” is one of those nice words. It sits alongside words like “forgiveness”, “love” and “peace”. They are lovely ideas, but putting any of these into practice isn’t always so nice.

Can you think of a time you stood before a wrong that you didn’t know if you had the strength to forgive? Or where you came across a person that made you doubt your ability to love? Or where you were confronted by ideas so contrary to your own values that you wondered if peace even had a role to play in the circumstances?

Similarly, gratitude takes a certain courage and a certain strength to live out.

Our current culture emphasises reward as the result of individual work ethic. “Success” is plastered everywhere as the main goal toward which we all ought to strive. And success, while a relatively fluid term in itself, is implied to be linked with skill and knowledge leading to good careers that pay us well to that we can not only be independence, but also have more than others. Ultimately, we may finally be able to achieve the remarkable feat of … not needing anyone.
In a culture where needing others is a form of failure, no wonder so many people find themselves feeling both isolated and like failures.

Gratitude can turn this idea right around. To be grateful is to acknowledge that you are not solely responsible for where you are and what you have. The very act of connecting with a sense of gratitude bring an awareness that we are connected to others, and to a benevolent power that moves in the world.

But being grateful can be challenging in good time as well as in bad.

Some people fear that being grateful for their own achievements, attained through hard work and discipline, would imply that the credit is not theirs. Being told “everything is a gift” can sound like a cheap platitude, when they actually worked hard for what they have.

On the other hand, some people find just as hard the idea of being grateful when times are tough. Not only can it be hard to find things to be grateful for, but being grateful for something so simple as food to eat can raise questions of “why have I been given so little?”

Along with these two extremes, of fabulous ‘success’ and bitter want, it is so easy at any time to forget gratitude altogether amid the workings of daily life.

But gratitude is a way to engage with the world that neither denies the suffering of others, nor of ourselves. It is not putting on a happy face, or turning away from difficult truths. It is finding the good among it all, even when that good is very small, and seeing God’s presence with us in that goodness.

A little 'ello

Just a little about me...
I'm a girl in my mid-20s. I adore reading and writing and music, but most of all I love exploring the Spirit.

I have been brought up an Anglo-Catholic Christian, but I love the beauty of all forms of spiritual expression, even atheistic expression. "God" isn't the only name for that great something behind everything.

I currently am studying Tibetan Buddhism, reading heavily about Universal Sufism, and undertaking my novociate to enter the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis.

This is the path I walk. May you all be blessed on yours.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.

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