You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF JOY, AND EACH OF THEM SHOULD HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN OUR HEARTS. There is a sense, however, in which the best joy is the joy of knowing that we have done the right thing. In every situation, we must ask what is the best thing that can be done, and having done what we knew was best, we must learn to be gratified by the knowledge that we’ve done the honorable thing. Integrity should be a source of joy to us.
Happiness and joy are very different things. Happiness is what we feel when what is “happening” is pleasant. But in regard to what happens, our thought should be: “Let not that happen which I wish, but that which is right” (Menander). There will be times when the right thing happens and it will involve great pain on our part. But if our joy comes from the happening of what is right, then we’ll be willing to sacrifice happiness for joy.
There may be times when little other joy will be available to us and we must content ourselves with knowing we’ve done the right thing. At such desperate times, our tears may have momentarily blinded us to many other blessings we have, but if we were ever reduced to a situation where we had no joy but that of having done what was right, then that joy should be enough to live on.
When we do what’s right, we do so in the faith that somehow everything’s going to work out all right in the end. “Faith is . . . doing the right thing regardless of the consequences, knowing God will turn the ultimate effect to good” (Pamela Reeve). So we go ahead and do what’s right, even when it’s difficult or painful, and our joy comes from our confidence in the ultimate outcome.
If we fail to find joy in the doing of what is right, then not only do we miss the highest joy we can have, but we degrade and demean ourselves. God gave us our conscience, and when we obey it, we thrive as beings made in God’s image — but when we fail to act with honor and integrity, life is no longer worth living.
When faith is lost,
When honor dies,
The man is dead!
(John Greenleaf Whittier)