(NOTE: to the few blog readers I have left, thank you for bearing with me and praying for me. This is a difficult time in my life … thank you for listening while I work through things to find God’s answers to my questions. One day, I will write happier, more care-free posts, I promise!)
I have struggled with joy probably my entire Christian life. While I understand the concept of “joy” versus the concept of just being “happy”, the joy still often seems elusive.
I have taught enough children’s lessons to know that JOY = Jesus, Others, and You. I have sung a ga-billion choruses of “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy – down in my heart!” – and “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” happens to be one of my favorite hymns. In my selfishness, I forget that JOY doesn’t revolve around me and my circumstances – it is dependent #1 on JESUS.
In 2008, right before the school year began, and I was desperately holding on to the little bit of joy I had left in my heart about having to accept another year of working instead of doing what I really wanted to do: stay at home and take care of my family. So, I wrote down all the verses in the Bible with the word JOY in it. While I knew some people suffered far greater hardships than working in a ministry that was sucking the energy out of me, I still felt a little joyLESS.
The Bible speaks often of joy in sorrow, joy in tribulation, joy in the midst of trouble. God did give me my joy back – in the form of finding out I was pregnant 4 years ago … and allowing me to work from home later that year. But joy through a person is a temporary joy. No man, no child can be depended on like knowing the infallible, perfect Jesus.
I once saw a Christian counselor because of some of the anxieties I was having after the birth of my second child. It wasn’t post-partum depression, he determined, it was anxiety due to a lack of truly understanding God’s character. After several years of infertility treatments and being given low odds of ever conceiving a child, I had not only ONE but TWO children. I felt unworthy and was sure that God would take one of my children because I didn’t deserve them. I was in a really messed up place. Instead of being happy about my babies, I lived in constant fear that one of them would have a fatal accident or be diagnosed with a childhood disease. I had no joy. I didn’t understand my loving Heavenly Father at all.
I have come a long way since those anxious days, but I still sometimes forget that God is good and has only good in mind for me, even in hard days and through painful lessons. For some reason, I falsely thought of a God as a harsh Judge for a long time, One who doesn’t give undeserved blessings (which is ironic because salvation itself is a FREE GIFT – Ephesians 3:5-6; Jesus died for us while we “yet sinners” before we ever knew we needed Him nor loved Him for His sacrifice). From childhood ideas, I just thought I didn’t deserve much of anything because I was not good enough. Obviously, I still struggle with the “good enough” sometimes…
The reason I am coming back to this concept right now is because my life is – once again – feeling a little joy-less. While I’m so blessed to be home-schooling my kids, enjoying relatively good health, my husband is employed, and we have just seen God do some amazing things in the last year, I just feel like life is one hard day after the other. There are no breaks from the kids; there are tasks that need to be done to get this house ready for market that I just can’t do by myself; I am also working through all the emotions that come with closing up a chapter of my life in a way I never thought I’d have to, and I am praying for some friends who carry far heavier burdens than I am right now. Life just doesn’t seem fair. (there, I said it! spoiled brat that I am.)
I’m learning to not dwell so much on the emotions … and yet, GOD gave us emotions. He wants us to feel, to laugh, to cry, to mourn, and to dance (to everything there is a season … book of Ecclesiastes). It is the getting stuck there that is wrong. Sometimes it is time to LET GO. I’m not very good at that. But I’m working on it. The counselor I saw so many years ago calls it “situational depression”. And right now, there are definitely plenty of things about my situation and that of a few of my friends that seem heavy and depressing.
So, I won’t end my post there. I do have HOPE. The future is bright – this season will end, and we will be OK. Saying good-bye and ending things is hard – just like cleansing a wound is painful but necessary for healing. (I can relate to that as I have 4 blisters right now!!) We will be happy again, together, as a family. This house will sell in God’s perfect time. The children will adapt to their new home … our family will survive. There will be JOY – in fact, there is JOY. I just need to hang on to it and never let it go.