Joy Is a Path

Yael Eckstein  |  January 17, 2023

yom kippur goats

You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12

Today, I continue with a new devotional series on joy, simcha — the joy found in the grateful acceptance and celebration of each day God has given to us. Join me as we explore teachings on the joy found in connecting with God and with others.

Most people spend their lives searching for happiness. It’s what we work toward every day, what we want more than anything, what we hope to achieve one day. We tell ourselves that when this or that happens, we will be happy — only to find out that when one problem is solved, some new challenge is right there waiting for us. We keep chasing happiness without ever feeling that we caught it.

The Bible, with the help of the interpretations of the Jewish sages, teaches us that our mistake is in thinking that joy is a goal, a destination. The sages teach us that joy is a path, not a place. We don’t go to joy; rather, we go through joy.

Joy Is a Path

This ancient wisdom is based on a verse in Isaiah: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” This verse refers to the Jewish people leaving their place of exile and returning to the Promised Land.

The physical exile of the Jewish people from the land of Israel also figuratively teaches us lessons about our own private “exiles.” Exile represents being stuck in a state of mind that keeps us from being free to enjoy the life God has given us.

Notice that Isaiah puts joy before peace. We mistakenly think that a peaceful life will bring us joy. But the reverse is true — a life of joy is what brings us peace.

Each of us strives to get out of our own private exile and to the promised land of joy and peace, where we can be our true selves and live our best lives. The verse in Isaiah teaches us that the way to get from exile to redemption, from our broken lives to our redeemed lives, is through joy. Joy is the process, not the goal.

We can’t wait for circumstances to line up perfectly so that we might feel joy. The Bible teaches us to feel joy even when our lives are difficult. It requires us to make joy our way of life instead of spending our lives trying to attain it.

Your Turn:

Don’t wait to be happy — make up your mind to be happy every day, starting right now.

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