Tonight I had a long overdue coffee date with a good friend. It was such a great time. We met at Starbucks and sat together long after our iced non-fat, decaf coffees were consumed. After we got through the “whats new with yous?”, we sunk deep into the meaty kind of conversation good friends tend to have. The, “So what’s really going on in your heart these days?” type of conversation. My friend has really been struggling lately… it seems every area of her life is hard right now. She said more than once that she doesn’t want to feel this way right now. She knows she’s really blessed on so many levels. And she genuinely is! But she’s struggling to find joy in it all.
Totally been there. I was there just last summer. How about you? I bet most of us in this blog community have been there at some time or another… if not even now!
I left our coffee date so glad we had shared that time, so glad I was able to listen. So glad I could offer even a semblance of encouragement. Half way home, though, I wished instead of only hugging her good bye, I wish I had asked to pray with her for a minute. She’s the kind of friend that would have been ok to ask of. It would have encouraged her rather than made her uncomfortable. And it was just that kind of conversation tonight that would have made that appropriate.
So instead, I prayed for her in my car on the way home. Because, as women, we hash things out, she was heading home with some ideas for how she might find joy again. I pray she’ll truly find what she’s looking for! That she’ll find the kind of joy that can last and remain even in the midst of great difficulty. The kind of joy she’s hungry for.
That kind of joy does exist. I discovered that last summer. Probably for the first truly real time in my life.
Here’s what I did at first: I tried to force it. As you can probably imagine, that didn’t work. I couldn’t make myself feel any form of happiness. If anything, it made my near-depression worse!
Here’s what I finally did: After several weeks of trying and forcing it to no avail, I finally opened my Bible. (I bet you so knew this was going there!) But seriously. I finally became so perplexed and frustrated by the philosophical concept of continuous joy, I needed to dig into the concept a whole lot more. I desperately needed it to go from philosophical in my brain to reality in my life.
(By the way, isn’t our tendency to look to everything or everyone else before we finally turn to God rather incredulous!?)
So I went to a Bible concordance and looked up the word “joy” in the Bible. Then I did a little bit of work and read the definition for every word translated “joy” in our English Bibles. Then I checked out the passages where the words are found to see if they indeed did correspond to the dictionary definitions. I was overjoyed by what I found. Here are a few simple things i discovered:
1. Lasting joy (the kind that’s not circumstantial) is directly connected to faith. Particularly ongoing-faith in God’s goodness, sovereignty, and good plans for our futures (Jer. 29:11-14)
2. Joy is related to happiness. (This may have been my favorite thing to discover—even though it seems obvious!!)
3. Joy is “connected”-happiness. It is always “happiness as a result of” something or someone. It’s connected to something. It’s not just a joy for joy’s sake. That’s a forced (impossible) kind of joy. Joy is always joyful BECAUSE of something or someone (or Someone, with a capital “S”).
4. Joy can be experienced simultaneously with pain, grief, depression, confusion, frustration, fear. In fact, it is our relief during those seasons. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
5. If there seems nothing to take joy in now, we can still have joy now through faith in what will be later. (1 Peter 1:6-7) We come to know what is promised to us in the future when we read the Bible. It has a lot to say about what is to come. Some of it applies to our future on earth (i.e.: the various ways God blesses us for obeying Him, or the way He’ll grow us through hardship, etc…) and some to our future in heaven. Until we’re students of God’s Word, however, we will only have loose *assumptions* to take joy in, based on what we’ve heard, rather than what we’ve read and learned and know to be true.
6. But then, that looking-to-the-future kind of joy brings us full circle… back to faith (#1 above). Particularly on-going faith in God to fulfill His good promises to us.
The illustration today is probably more appropriate for your family room than it is for your child’s room. It’s more abstract. More something we can appreciate than our children may be able to. Or maybe it would fit great in your bedroom or even your bathroom. Maybe it should hang wherever you go when you’re feeling blue and joyless. Perhaps it can be a visual reminder that God is still good, and can still get us through this thing, and work out this thing for our good (Rom. 8:28). If not now, we know He can and will someday when this life is said and done. If we become students of God’s Word, and we come to know and believe the multitude of blessings He promises to His children in the Bible—especially a relationship with Himself—we will, indeed, find lasting reason for joy!!
Real and lasting joy to you this day, sweet Oohmooonies!! You are a source of joy to me!
p.s. For more on how I arrived at the 1-6 conclusions above, check out this post I wrote last December on another blog.
p.p.s. Trying something new today! Have you ever wondered what these more “conceptual” pieces are all about? What the details mean? Tell me what you think about my adding the image with explanations below!! (Click on it to see it larger.)