There are no limits to Christian joy

By  Lisa Petsche
  • December 22, 2006

"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls."

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

As seasonal celebrations wind down, the decorations are packed away and people get back to their routines, it's not uncommon to feel disappointment — a symptom of what's known as "the post-holiday blues."

For Christians, our challenge is to find ways to continue to experience the joy of Christmas in our daily lives and share it with others. In theory, this shouldn't be difficult. After all, Christian joy is rooted in our belief that God loves us unconditionally and is ever-present, guiding and supporting us, and in our trust in His promise of eternal life. Human nature being what it is though, we tend to take our faith, like other blessings in our life, for granted. We get caught up in the complexities of modern life and distracted by the concerns of the secular world.

I once heard in a homily that joy is an acronym for "Jesus and Others before You." In other words, devotion to Jesus and service to others brings fulfilment.

Popular culture would have us believe the opposite: that our individual needs and wants matter most, and that fulfilment comes from external sources: the more we acquire in terms of possessions, power and prestige, the better we will feel. Worldly sources of affirmation involve competition and can easily vanish though, whereas Christian joy is infinite and permanent. It never loses its lustre and there's plenty to go around.

Christian joyfulness doesn't imply being in a constant state of elation and celebration, though. In daily life it manifests itself more subtly, in a steadfast focus and quiet confidence that's independent of life's circumstances. Happiness isn't a requirement because "joy is not the absence of trouble but the presence of Christ" (Rev. William Vander Hoven). It reassures and sustains us in difficult times.

Simple, everyday joys are all around us: an inspirational piece of music, a flower's fragrance, a delicious meal, a vibrant sunset, a stranger's kindness, to name but a few. We just need to get into the habit of looking for them.

Here are some other ways to cultivate joy:

  • Purge excess possessions, which drain your time, energy and spirit;
  • Bring a bit of nature into your home: get a plant to nurture or buy fresh flowers once a month;
  • Create a tranquil spot you can retreat to in order to relax and rejuvenate;
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Good health fosters a sense of well-being;
  • Do something you enjoy each day — read, listen to music or take up a hobby, for example;
  • Let go of the need for perfection. Don't sweat the small stuff. Keep life as simple as possible;
  • Think positively. Use phrases such as "I can," "I will" and "I choose";
  • During difficult times, accept offers of help. Allow others the opportunity to be a source of comfort and joy to you;
  • Set aside time each day for prayer, spiritual reading and reflection. Go on a spiritual retreat from time to time.

Joy-filled people experience a natural desire to share their joy with others. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Be generous with praise and encouragement and cautious with criticism (giving only the constructive type);
  • Look for the good in people and situations. Demonstrate empathy, give others the benefit of the doubt and practise forgiveness;
  • Volunteer in your community;
  • Donate possessions you don't need to a charity;
  • Perform random acts of kindness;
  • Help out people around you who are going through a difficult time (due to illness or loss of a loved one, for example);
  • Sponsor a child or aged person in a developing country (check out Christian Child Care International at or the Adopt-a-Gran program at

Besides providing hope and inspiration to others, spreading joy has its own intrinsic reward: the satisfaction of fulfilling our destiny, which is to build God's kingdom here on Earth.

(Petsche is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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