Joy Unto You
Joy is hard. A lot of people want Joy to just be happy, a cute cursive word for Christmas time wrapped in candy cane stripes. Happy warm fuzzies are great (huge fan) but happiness is an emotion, and while our emotions are valid and true, they are not the core of our being. Happiness—like sadness, anger, grief, and fear—is merely a cloud floating through our patch of sky. No emotion sticks around forever.
And it would be so much easier if true Joy were just a lack of sadness; because I am the master of avoiding sadness and pain (until the very last possible second). I feel my feelings and the feelings of others deeply, so, lately I distract and busy, tinker and tune out like a pro, but really this isn’t enough to bring me Joy.
Joy is not just being happy—that is temporary, only an emotion of the moment; nor is Joy the mere *absence* of bad things and feelings. A lack of presence of one thing does not guarantee the presence of its opposite (just because I’m not particularly “sad” doesn’t necessarily mean I’m “happy”, you know?). Joy is neither airy and fleeting, nor something you can gain by focusing on riding yourself of discomfort.
Joy, if you let it, has a death grip on Life within you.
I went camping recently with some friends from church and their extended family; my husband and I arrived on day 3 of their epic 5 day wilderness hang out. By then, they had more than established cooking coals that could be coaxed into a warm, night time fire or softened down to skillet sizzling perfection. It rained just before we arrived, but the coals somehow managed to stay safe. The night before we left, with one more dinner and one more morning meal to go, it poured. And poured. And kept pouring, buckets upon buckets. For hours the rain and thunder would not let up, and lightning made it bright as day for flashes of milliseconds. Our poor logs were soaked instantly, but their underbellies burned on, the coals still smoldering, glowing bright as the lightning. Our little fire made it through every single torrent of fierce weather, faithfully melting our marshmallows and grilling up our dinners. We stood in our rain gear, splashed in puddles, warmed our bellies with hot food and drink, played Chinese checkers far too late, and made the most of our saturated tents for a few hours of shut eye.
This is Joy.
The burning of our own bellies when our lives grow stormy and soggy. Our circumstances, our emotions, our health, our relationships—it might all feel like it’s sinking, soaking, unsavable. But Joy burns on. In the eyes of fear and sorrow, pain and despondence, Joy is a deadly combination of hope, gratitude, faith, simplicity, and light, all wrapped into a posture of worship and humility in the Presence of True Joy. However, the coals of Joy do not just appear, even if we wish really hard and persistently think about cultivating Joy. Joy is a force that needs to be nurtured and tended to daily, stoked into blazes and allowed to breathe and simmer throughout our whole beings. Joy takes some hand-dirtying work, my friends. But like most tasks, it is one better accomplished among friends and partners, safe people who will help keep you accountable, keep you laughing, keep you praying, keep you splashing in puddles, keep stoking your fires along with you.
I am not very good at Joy just yet. My kindling stash is measly, and I’ve broken and wasted a lot of matches getting to the place I am now. But I believe in a Joyful, Blazing-Light God, Who is more than happy, more than able, to foster and protect the Joy that has been planted within me (and you, too).
So do your best to glow on, brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit has you and is willing to nurture more Joy in your life than you could ever imagine.
Until next time.