C.S. Lewis wrote a book with this title. Many thought that it was because he married so late in life and his wife's name was Joy. It was actually not about that at all, but about his journey from atheism, to theism, to Christianity. It blows my mind that this man actually was an atheist because much of my intellectual appeal to Christianity has come from this man's pen. The big reason for his switch is because he found joy where he wasn't expecting it. It surprised him.
And the joy he found was a deep longing for something he did not have, but that he knew existed. He says that he caught glimpses of it through out his life, but never quite caught hold of the real thing. But after much exploration and a bit of help from J.R.R. Tolkien (among others), there was a moment in his life where he just all-of-the-sudden knew. And he was surprised by the joy it brought. He uses a German word to describe it: sehnsucht.
"Sehnsucht" is one of those words that just doesn't have a direct translation into English. Whatever you use to describe its definition, you have to pad that with other words and descriptions so that it makes sense. It basically means "longing", "yearning" or "nostalgia". I like this description (from wikipedia):
"It is sometimes felt as a longing for a far-off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify. Furthermore there is something in the experience which suggests this far-off country is very familiar and indicative of what we might otherwise call 'home'". This "home" feeling is something that I think we all have experienced. And like Mr. Lewis, I also believe we all long for true, lasting joy. I sure do.
But joy is such an interesting thing. One of my core beliefs is that one of the purposes of life is to have joy. Adam fell that man may be, and men are that they might have joy. That's why we are here. To experience true joy. But I believe that joy isn't as easy as getting a new pair of shoes, or getting a free Jamba Juice - though I love when that happens. It comes with a price. And the price is usually some sort of pain.
If we ask God to bless us with joy, He will, but it will likely be after our heart has been in some way wrenched. And when we arrive at that moment when we feel such a heavenly sensation, it will be much more rich because of what we went through. Joy is much more genuine and lasting because it does take a while to get there. And no one else can understand it the way we do once we arrive at joy. It's hard to explain. Trying to explain joy is a bit like trying to describe a life-changing experience. Like after I came home from a two year mission in Chile or after my time in the Holy Land. I often found mere acquaintances asking "So how was your mission?" or "How was Jerusalem?" They were well meaning, but it was impossible to really explain how those life-changing experiences were.
A Rosebush Analogy
As a teacher at the MTC I used a visual of a rosebush to explain the mission. The mission is like a rosebush. Before you get to it, you look at it, and you are amazed at how beautiful it is from a distance. You get closer and it just gets even more beautiful. Then you are surprised when you begin to walk through the rosebush. You realize that there are thorns EVERYWHERE and you wonder why you entered the rosebush in the first place! You look down and see that you are bleeding and torn all over your body. It hurts, but something inside you tells you to keep walking. So you do. You finally see the other side of the rosebush and before you know it, you are on the outside looking back. The blood stops, the wounds heal and you once again see the rosebush from a distance. And it looks even more beautiful than it did before you entered. And even though it was one of the most painful and bloody experience you have been through, you almost feel a nostalgia for that beautiful place. To me this is joy. It can't be experienced without that unique painful nostalgia.
If we want true joy, our whole life we will be entering and exiting these rosebushes. Man is that he might walk through the rosebush. Thankfully, there is someone who walks through the bush with us who has gone through the rosebush to trump all rosebushes. "I have trodden the winepress alone" He said (Isaiah 63:3). "Which suffering caused myself even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and partake--" This suffering was real and He overcame. And after His great rosebush He actually said: "my joy is full" (3 Ne 17:20) - this makes more sense that his joy would be FULL after having suffered for all mankind. His rosebush trumped all rosebushes and His joy therefore is matchless.
I am grateful for the true joy I have experienced in my life, especially recently. And for the chance to walk through the rosebushes of life. And I am grateful for the one who can fix me every time I walk through another one.
"In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)