“Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Mother Teresa advised, “The best way to show our gratitude to God is to accept everything with joy. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of Christ risen.” She instructed others as if joy were a matter of the will, and she was very practical about it. “Being happy in Jesus means loving as he loves, helping as he helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues, being with him twenty-four hours, touching him in his distressing disguise.” Jesus’ “distressing disguise” –a phrase Mother Teresa often used, describes people who are wretched and abandoned, perhaps obnoxious. Does all this sound grim and not happy at all?

Here’s what one person said of Mother Teresa and her sisters: their life is tough and austere, yet I never met such delightful, happy women, or such an atmosphere of joy as they create. Mother Teresa, as she is fond of explaining, attaches the utmost importance to this joyousness. The poor, she says, “deserve not just service and dedication, but also the joy that belongs to human love.” This is what the sisters give abundantly. Another said, “She was the happiest human being I ever met.” Mother Teresa said, herself, “Cheerfulness is indeed the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a clear sign of the Kingdom within.”

She was determined to be happy in the Lord, despite feelings of emptiness, a paradox worth contemplating. She warns against being preoccupied with the future. “There is no reason to do so,” she writes, “God is there.” She also warned against longing for money that can bring endless “needs” and dissatisfaction. In this regard, she was far beyond most of us. “Poverty makes us free,” she said to her sisters. “That is why we can joke and smile and keep a happy heart for Jesus.”

Adapted from One Year Book of Encouragement