One last passage from Christopher Ben Simpson’s survey of Kierkegaard’s thought – just to close out on a note of joy, as Kierkegaard would have it.
For Kierkegaard, joy in the midst of suffering is evidence in the present temporal world of something other than this world (BoA 186) Such joy does not make sense within a finite frame – it is ordered beyond it. This joy is paradoxical – ‘the Christian is poor, yet not poor but rich’ and ‘“Life begins at death,” says the lowly Christian’ (CD 22, 46). It is a higher joy that seems absurd to the lower because ‘God’s thoughts are eternally higher than the thoughts of a human being, and therefore every human conception of happiness and unhappiness, of what is joyful and what is sorrowful, is faulty thinking’ (UDVS, 284). It is to be ‘happy’, to be ‘joyful’ ‘out on 70,000 fathoms of water’ – where suffering ‘is the 70,000 fathoms of water’ (SLW 470; CUP 140, 288). It is to be suspended over nothing, suspended from the higher.
There is joy in the Christian life that comes from one’s being with God, from one’s relationship with God. For Kierkegaard, different qualities of joy can be discerned relative to the central characteristics of God – relative to God as eternal, as the good, and as loving. The Christian has the joy of resting in God’s changelessness. To him, the changelessness of God is ‘sheer joy and gladness’ (MLW 269). Here, one enjoys God’s eternity as the ground of one’s existential security. To rest in God’s changelessness as an ‘eternally safeguarded’ and ‘happy home’ (MLW 279) as a beloved spring’s ‘faithful coolness’ that ‘is not subject to change’ is to find security in God’s availability; God for the Christian is ‘everything to be found’, ‘always to be found and always to be found unchanged’ (MLW 280-1). The Christian also has the joy of relating to God as the good end that they desire as their ‘happiness’, or ‘blessedness’ (CD 222) – the blessing that is ‘the good in itself; it is the one thing needful, is infinitely more glorious and blessed than all success’ (CD 297). Finally, the Christian has joy in God’s love for them. ‘The thought that God is love’, Kierkegaard writes, ‘contains all the joy in the world’ (UDVS 282, emphasis mine). Our ‘unconditional joy’ is ‘worshipfully to dare to believe “that God cares for you”’ (LFBA 43). God’s love to us is joy as light from the one sun radiating.
BoA The Book on Adler
CD Christian Discourses
CUP Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
LFBA The Lily in the Field and the Bird of the Air
MLW The Moment and Late Writings
SLW Stages on Life’s Way
UDVS Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits