Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory”. (1 Samuel 2:1)
Hannah had longed for a son for a long time before she gave birth to Samuel, who would become a great prophet. It had been a long wait and she dedicated his life and work to serving the God who had answered her prayers.
But Hannah’s prayer is not just about Hannah. While the source of her joy can be found in the fulfillment of something about which she had dreamed, her song recognizes that what has made that happen and brought her real joy is that the child that she will bear is one who will not just bring her fulfillment but also further God’s work in the world. So her prayer also celebrates the lifting up the poor, the feeding of the hungry and signs of the care that God offers of the oppressed.
This is a key to deep meaning and joy and one key way that joy is something deeper than just being “happy.” When our deepest longings also serve God’s greatest purposes, our sense that our lives matter and the joy that wells up within us can be amazing. One key to this is aligning your deepest desires with what you know that God is working for. Hunger and long for the reign of God. The other is being open to being used by God to advance these things. When we see that the fruit of our life’s work is also contributing to God’s reign breaking into our world, like Hannah, our hearts will sing with joy.