Avoiding Joy

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By Daniel Chou
Cover illustration by Maggie Chiang
Mar 01, 2017 | min read
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THE LAST VISIT to my parents brought up some feedback they had for inheritance: “Why are all the stories so sad? Can’t you tell a story with a happy ending once in a while?”

At the time, I brushed off this critique. After all, we’re not looking to tell stories that give false hope that everything’s just going to be OK. We want to tell stories of struggle, of how life is full of ambiguities and uncertainties, and we want to separate western Christianity from its privileged sense of triumphalism.

If Disney wants to tell stories that true happiness is only when the Prince finds the Princess, we want to tell stories that say that even if the Princess never meets the Prince, they both can still have a life of fulfillment and confidence.

But the more I think about it, the more I notice tendencies in myself to deliberately avoid joy. Maybe my parents were onto something.

I don’t like getting my hopes up. It’s hard for me to enjoy “good” things because I know that they will be fleeting. A part of me tends to associate being joyful with a certain sense of naïveté. 

Particularly in a time when we’re surrounded by highlighted issues of police brutality, disregard for indigenous sacred land, and continued economic struggle, it’s easy to look at the difficulties in this world and say that joy is no longer possible. 

It’s easy to look at the difficulties in this world and say that joy is no longer possible. 

And yet, I’m reminded that to choose joy is to deliberately resist the patterns of this world — a world that operates out of fear of the other, that hoards for its own security, that prefers lies rather than the truth. 

Joy is the Spirit of liberation that surprises us with a sense of peace during our moments of suffering.

Joy is those moments of finding beauty and value in the absurd and nonsensical.

Joy is the fullness of the presence of the Most High and when we share in the community of believers.

Abraham Joshua Heschel puts it this way: “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation ... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”

Don’t get me wrong — it’s difficult for me to be joyful, let alone to practice joy. But celebrate we must, for, in joy, we resist. 

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Daniel Chou

Daniel Chou (he) serves as the editor-in-chief of Inheritance and is also one of the magazine’s founders. He holds a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. Outside of Inheritance, he is co-founder of Winnow+Glean and enjoys roasting coffee. He posts sporadically on Instagram @dchou and even more sporadically on Twitter @danielchou.

Maggie Chiang

Maggie Chiang was born to a Taiwanese family in the City of Angels and is a full-time artist and part-time dreamer. Inspired by places both real and fictitious, her illustrations evoke a longing for adventure and the pursuit of the unknown, exploring impossible landscapes and places unseen. You can find her online at hellomaggiec.com.

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