Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advent Journal Day XIX: C.S. Lewis and Joy

C. S. Lewis, speaking concerning three experiences of his and his subsequent thoughts on Joy, writes:

I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is… {pg. 30}

As for Joy, I labeled it “esthetic experience” and talked much about it under that name and said it was very valuable. But it came seldom and when it came it didn’t amount to much…{pg. 30}

 The discovery flashed a new light back on my whole life. I saw all my waitings and watchings for Joy, all my vain hopes to find some mental content on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, “This is it,” had been a futile attempt to contemplate the enjoyed. All that such watching and waiting ever could find would be either an image (Asgar, the Western Garden, or what not) or a quiver in the diaphragm. I should never have to bother again about these images or sensations. I knew now that they were merely the mental track left by the passage of Joy—not the wave but the waves imprint of the sand.  The inherent dialect of desire itself had in a way already shown me this; for all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, “it is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?” {pg. 30}

There was no doubt that Joy was a desire (and insofar as it was also simultaneously a good, it was also a kind of love.) But a desire is turned not to itself but to its object. Erotic love is not like desire for food, nay, a love for one woman differs from a love for another woman in the very same way and the very same degree as the two women differ from one another…the form of the desired is in the desire. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, high or low. It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable of hateful. I perceived (and this was a wonder of wonders) that just as I had been wrong in supposing that I really desired the Garden of the Hesperides, so also, I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself. Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all. All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring. And that object, quite clearly, was not the state of my own mind or body at all. In a way, I had proved this by elimination. I had tried everything in my own mind and body; as it were, asking myself, “Is it this you want: Is it this?” Last of all I had asked if Joy itself was what I wanted; and, labeling it “esthetic experience,” had pretended I could answer yes. But that answer too had broken down.  Inexorable Joy proclaimed, “You want—I myself am your want or—something other, outside, not you nor any state of you.” I did not yet ask, Who is the desired? Only What is it? But this brought me already into the region of awe, for thus I understood that in deepest solitude there is a road right out of the self, a commerce with something which, by refusing to identify itself with any object of the senses, or anything whereof we have biological or social need, or anything imagined, or any state of our own minds, proclaims itself sheerly objective. {pg. 31}

I may be asked whether my terror was at all relived by the thought that I was now approaching the source from which those arrows of Joy had been shot at me ever since childhood. Not in the least. No slightest hint was vouchsafed me that there ever had been or ever would be any connection between God and Joy. If anything, it was the reverse. I had hoped that the heart of reality might be of such a kind that we can best symbolize it as a place; instead, I Found it to be a Person. For all I knew, the total rejection of what I called Joy might be one of the demands, might be the very first demand, He would make upon me. There was no strain of music from within, no smell of eternal orchids at the threshold, when I was dragged through the doorway. No kind of desire was present at all… {pg. 32}.

But what, in conclusion, of Joy? For that, after all, is what the story has mainly been about. To tell you the truth, the subject has lost nearly all interest for since I became a Christian {p. 32}.

Remember how we found that Joy is a part of our journey of faith Php.1:25 }, and fellowship with Jesus brings continuous joy {John 15-17}? That is what I think is at the heart of Lewis’ writing on Joy. He was searching for some “feeling,” some “esthetic feeling,” when all the while he should have been looking to the Person that Joy is connected to—the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as we don’t seek the spiritual gifts, but the Giver of those gifts, instead of trying to “find” Joy or seek after it, seek after the Giver of that Joy. Seek Him, remember Him, celebrate Him, and the Joy will come. In the end, Lewis, having sought everywhere for Joy, and found it only by searching for Christ, was not concerned with it after becoming a Christian. When we seek the Lord instead of the “feeling,” the Joy comes. Nehemiah the great wall-building prophet, in the verse that I confessed often annoys me—probably because I need it desperately, declares, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Joy is not yours to muster—it is a gift from the Lord for seeking for Him, rejoicing in Him and worshiping Him— in your theology of thanksgiving. 

The joy of the Lord is your strength the prophet has said
So lift up your voice and sing raise up from your bed
Here He comes the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings
This joy! This joy! This joy! Our praises to the Lord it brings

He comes to fill us with His joy so we are overflowing
To go about doing good and take joy where-ever we are going
There is a well of joy He is calling us to, waiting to restore
This joy! This joy! I will drink from His well forever more!

This joy of mine is fulfilled for I have heard the Bride-Groom’s voice
I have chosen to follow Him daily I have made my choice
This joy of His salvation is calling you by name
If you are broken, hurt, sick or even lame
Come to this well of joy you will never be the same

When we follow in His ways do not think it boring and dull
The things He has spoken to us, He spoke that our joy may be full

Oh when we choose the King of kings and the Lord of lords
This joy! This joy! This joy!  Oh listen to His words
He is coming for His bride without wrinkle or a spot
This joy! This joy! This joy! For our battle has been fought

Don’t you know that we have won this joy! This joy!  
This joy! Praise God for our victory!

By Piper Green
©2003-2004, 2016

C.S. Lewis, The Joyful Christian (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1977), 30-32.

To read the entire Advent Journal click here:
Advent Journal: A Theology of Thanksgiving

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