Inconsolable Longing. Joy.

Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang the inconsolable longing.

C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

For days I chew on the concept of joy and, as often happens when something tumbles around in my mind, I see it everywhere. Not that I see joy everywhere, per se, it more like the whisper of gentle reminders.

I read the Psalms and I’m reminded of divine things written on my heart that lead to joy. I scribble in my notebook about the elusiveness of joy: that there is no magic formula for grasping it but there are things sure to keep it at bay. Many of those things are within my control.

C.S. Lewis, a fellow ruminator and pilgrim, agrees that joy is not the same as happiness. In fact, he goes a step farther and says joy “must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing” and in that I see wisdom. Because there is a bittersweetness to joy.

Joy is a paradox. It’s a presence but also an absence, a sweet longing, and a deep peace. It’s quiet, but sometimes it’s loud. It’s within my power to banish it, but not to summon it.

It’s worthy of rumination. I’ll sit with it a while longer.

What does joy mean to you?


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. I believe joy can co-exist with grief, as C. S. Lewis illustrates. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Linda.

  2. Linda, I once heard a statement —and I’m paraphrasing—that the degree of joy one experience is directing related to the depth of despair you’ve experienced. It seems to be related to one’s capability to experience the full impact of feelings. Thank you for this lovely reflection today.

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