When as the last time you found joy in the work of others? This may sound like a strange question, but it is often on mind when I read the Holy Scriptures. St Paul so often tells others that they bring him joy, it makes me wonder about today. Can we truly say that others bring us joy?
Brethren, you are our glory and joy. Therefore, when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you, that no one be moved by these afflictions. You yourselves know that this is to be our lot. For when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction; just as it has come to pass, and as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent that I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you - for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith; for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. – Thessalonians 2.20-3.8
I also of wonder about the difference between happiness and joy. It is easy to be happy in the efforts of others. We are happy when our home team wins the big game. We are happy when we can tell someone we ‘know’ someone famous. We may even be happy when our friends get that prestigious promotion at work, or at least we are happy for them. Do any of these really bring us joy?
Joy is something that rests deep in our hearts without malice. Happiness can be thwarted by selfishness. We are happy for our friend but depressed we did not receive a similar promotion. We are happy to know someone famous but wonder when we will ever be discovered by the public. Joy brings us peace, not anxiety, and I think our world focuses too much on happiness rather than joy.
For St Paul, the strong faith of the Thessalonians brought him joy even in his suffering. He could not have been happy that he suffered, but the word of others’ strong faith brough him peace and comfort. He understood that his suffering was worth the peace he gained in their strong faith. He found joy in their faith.
Now think about your home parish. Are there people in your parish who excel in faith? I don’t mean, are then in Church every Sunday? I mean, are they examples to you and others that some suffering doesn’t distract them from being faithful to God? Does their faith bring you joy or anxiety? Does witnessing their faith cause you to be depressed that you aren’t strong in your struggles like they are in their struggles, or does their strength give you peace that it is indeed possible.
I think that is where we can find joy in the faith of others. Even in our weakness and suffering, we can find joy in knowing that it is possible to endure and not lose hope. Looking again at the exhortation of St Paul today, it was their faith that gave him the peace to endure his suffering with joy. I pray we can find that joy in the faith of our fellow parishioners. Afterall, we are united to them as much as we are united to Christ. At the very least, their faith can strengthen our faith just by being united to them, and inspired by them, rather than jealous of them.
Let’s go find joy in the faith of others today and eave happiness behind!