Joy & Power
Three Messages with One Meaning
The desire of happiness, beyond all doubt, is a natural desire. It is the law of life itself that every being seeks and strives toward the perfection of its kind, the realization of its own specific ideal in form and function, and a true harmony with its environment. Every drop of sap in the tree flows toward foliage and fruit. Every drop of blood in the bird beats toward flight and song. In a conscious being this movement toward perfection must take a conscious form. This conscious form is happiness, - the satisfaction of the vital impulse, - the rhythm of the inward life, - the melody of a heart that has found its keynote. To say that all men long for this is simply to confess that all men are human, and that their thoughts and feelings are an essential part of their life. Virtue means a completed manhood. The joyful welfare of the soul belongs to the fulness of that ideal. Holiness is wholeness. In striving to realize the true aim of our being, we find the wish for happiness implanted in the very heart of our effort.
Now what does Christ say in regard to this natural human wish? Does He say that it is an illusion? Does He condemn and deny it? Would He have accepted Goethe's definition: "religion is renunciation"?
Surely such a notion is far from the spirit of Jesus. There is nothing of the hardness of Stoicism, the coldness of Buddhism, in Christ's gospel. It is humane, sympathetic, consoling. Unrest and weariness, the fever of passion and the chill of despair, soul-solitude and heart-trouble, are the very things that He comes to cure. He begins His great discourse with a series of beatitudes. "Blessed" is the word. "Happy" is the meaning. Nine times He rings the changes on that word, like a silver bell sounding from His fair temple on the mountain-side, calling all who long for happiness to come to Him and find rest for their souls.
Christ never asks us to give up merely for the sake of giving up, but always in order to win something better. He comes not to destroy, but to fulfil, - to fill full, - to replenish life with true, inward, lasting riches. His gospel is a message of satisfaction, of attainment, of felicity. Its voice is not a sigh, but a song. Its final word is a benediction, a good-saying. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
If we accept His teaching we must believe that men are not wrong in wishing for happiness, but wrong in their way of seeking it. Earthly happiness, - pleasure that belongs to the senses and perishes with them, - earthly happiness is a dream and a delusion. But happiness on earth, - spiritual joy and peace, blossoming here, fruiting hereafter, - immortal happiness, is the keynote of life in Christ.
And if we come to Him, He tells us four great secrets in regard to it.
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Title: Joy & Power
Author: Henry Van Dyke
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