I think joy is more than living without pain. It’s also more than happiness. It’s to experience it all, and love it all.
With all my heart I love my life on this planet. Could there be a more perfect world? We might wish for one where there’s no sickness; but how then, could we appreciate good health when we have it? Where there’s no poverty; but how, then, could we appreciate the fruits of labor? Where there’s no sin; but how, then, could we appreciate the gift of the Savior whose birth we now celebrate?
It’s all essential. No part of the mighty frame of this world is wasted or superfluous. Good and evil, pleasure and pain, sickness and health, rich and poor, the proud and the humble, the true and the false, the ugly and the beautiful — all individuals and all the elements of society and nature play their vital roles in the vast panorama of existence.
It sometimes doesn’t seem so. Often in the mountains I have wondered at the colossal expanss of waste, utterly unusable to man for agriculture or other productive purpose. Yet out of them flow life-giving rivers of pure water and oxygen. Life in valley and plain might perish without the contribution of our mountains. Also in the mountains I have frequently wondered if mosquitoes are really neaessary. (They occur elsewhere, of course, but it’s in the mountains where, in springtime, they can really get one’s attention.) So yes, mosquitoes too are necessary: Remove them and other entire species would die.
Are thorns, thistles, briars and noxious weeds essential to man? Ecologically they may not be, I don’t know but spiritually they may serve to refine and purify those of us who must battle them on the fields of earth.
Indeed, the more I consider the matter on a philosophical level the more convinced I become that the world was exquisitely designed precisely for the purpose of our training, testing and perfection. However, my view of the world’s creation is not solely utilitarian. Its unnecessary beauty also impresses me. (Please don’t misunderstand: The beauty of a flower or bird’s plumage is essential to reproduction, and so is not at issue here.) What I refer to is, for example, the grandeur of mountains, the delicate lace of tree branches against a winter sky, or the colored patterns in Awahee-Picture-Jasper stone. Such beauty is not ecologically required. Yet it’s sufficiently pervasive to suggest aesthetic intent. It was not required for the functioning of the world but seems to have been thrown in as a bonus. So did the Creator do it to please Himself, to please us His children, or both? (Some may argue that nature itself produces beauty preferentially, but that’s a mystical assertion difficult to defend.) I don’t know. All I really know for sure is that I love Him for making it the way He did and for permitting me to walk upon it for a blessed and precious few years.
This, to me, is joy.