By Toni Rossi,
Director of Communications
In my previous column, I shared parts of my interview with Joy Marie Clarkson, author of the book “Aggressively Happy: A Realist’s Guide to Believing in the Goodness of Life.” She revealed how a period of suffering led her closer to God and a greater appreciation for the joys we can experience if we open ourselves to them. But getting to that point was not a straight line for Joy, who admits she has struggled with doubt as well.
She doesn’t see doubt as a bad thing, though, noting that she feels a kinship to two characters in Dostoevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov” because ”it portrays someone who, with the best intentions of their heart, cannot believe in God—and someone who, with the best of intentions of their heart, chooses to [believe] anyway. I always have felt like I had both of those within me. A part of choosing to believe…is saying that my life is more sensible, more endurable in faith—and the consolation that comes with faith can’t come from the outside. I have to take the step into faith to be able to receive its consolations. Having that story in my mind has helped me know that God is faithful to me even when I waver in doubt.”
Among the consolations of looking at life through the eyes of faith is the belief “that at the heart of reality is goodness, is joy, and that in choosing to cultivate happiness, we are speaking to that reality.” Still, there are people who view the world through a darker lens, seeing only its hardships and sufferings. While acknowledging that we can’t be happy all the time, Joy believes that view gives the darkness too much power over the light.
She explained, “There’s a great quote by Jack Gilbert, the American poet, who says, ‘To only attend to evil would be to praise the devil.’ So, attend to what is good and beautiful and true, but not in a way that ignores all the difficult things of life…There can be this idea that if…someone in the world is suffering, you’re being selfish because you’re being happy…It’s like, ‘If I’m sitting around being cynical and unhappy, I’m more righteous than everybody else because I’m more knowing.’ When in fact, you’re probably making life for everyone around you more unpleasant. It’s not helping anyone on the other side of the world, it’s not helping anyone around you, and it’s not being attuned and thankful for what is in front of you.”
When Joy encounters problems nowadays, she tries to follow The Christophers’ approach of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. She concluded, ”I always start with the practical…What I try to do is I… eat something healthy, I’m going to sometimes literally light a candle. It’s amazing to me how much pleasure…lighting a candle can be. Then…I try to be intentional about reaching out to friends. Sometimes when I’m encountering difficulties, trying to give kindness to other people helps me feel better, because it also reminds me that I’m not just a victim to the rest of life. I can be an agent of positivity.
“Then, I [rest] in God. There are times for shaking one’s fist at God and doing all the Psalmist activities. But I think also [about] trusting in God’s love for me, no matter what happens. Sometimes that takes the form of prayers and listening to a beautiful song and knowing that God made beautiful things in the world.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note BRINGING LIGHT TO LOST SOULS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: email@example.com