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  • Rachel Crow

Joy in a Despairing World

Have you ever thought to yourself, what is joy? Is it just being really happy? What is despair? Is it being overwhelmingly sad?

Actually , the word “joy” is based on the Latin gaudium, from gaudere meaning ‘rejoice.’ Despair comes from the Latin desperare, de- ‘down from’ , plus sperare, ‘to hope.’ Is our world ‘down from hope’?

Do you recognize that connection between hope and rejoicing? It seems to me that we rejoice based on a hope fulfilled.

I frequently see and hear comments like, “I hope this is over soon”, “I hope the county health department doesn’t recommend schools close again”, and lately, “I hope people who want the vaccine can get it.” These primarily come from people young and not, out in the community, at work, and from family and friends in other places. They aren’t isolated, feeling down from hope. They don’t despair, but anticipate an opportunity to rejoice.

COVID-19 has created two groups in society. As a teacher, I see our students rejoice to be back in school, with their teachers and friends. While they are adjusting to different ways of doing things, most are performing much better academically than when they were attending class remotely, and their parents are generally able to return to work. The other group in society doesn’t have or anticipate this liberty, and life is not likely to be the same. Some of their jobs are gone forever. The first group is much more likely to be hopeful about finding joy, while the second group is more likely to struggle in doing so.

In the story of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph traveled to register for the census. Mary, pregnant, was on her feet for about 100 miles, over somewhere around ten days. They finally reached their destination, Bethlehem, only to find no one to offer a meal or hospitality. No place to rest. Was their world despairing? I expect it felt like it. People were hurting and suffering.

Then, Jesus Christ was born.

His coming brought joy to the world -- which, when we look and find it around us, will always overcome despair. We rejoice! Great joy for all people! There may be times when we think we are in despair, but with Christ, joy will lift up hope.

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