A co-worker recently asked me how I was doing. I responded in the way most do ninety- nine percent of the time. Always telling people the polished answer of what we think they want to hear. Ever afraid others don’t want the whole messy truth or can’t handle it. “I’m okay,” I replied with half a smile. Then I proceeded with a litany of the current stressors going on in my life: the juggling of work and balancing a life that comes with a new business, the recent loss of my brother, the challenges of parenting. You know, the obvious things, but grossly down-played.
Sympathetically, she looked at me and said, “And how are YOU doing, Sarah?” I felt caught off guard. Like someone had gotten a glimpse of me unclothed or read my journal without me knowing. It was like she could sense the avoidance of the truth behind my superficial answer. Here’s the raw truth of how I was feeling in that moment: I was feeling joyless. I was existing, but not really living the abundant life that Jesus promises in scripture.
It felt like joy had been eluding me. Like joy was a scavenger hunt ,and I couldn’t figure out the clues. Or that I was a bystander watching a parade, with the feel of the hot pavement beneath my feet, and the thickness of the summer air surrounding me. The sounds of the drums echoing from the marching band, and the children on the shoulders of their parents trying to get a better view. But then there’s me. Too far back in the crowd, standing on my tiptoes and craning my neck around the blocked view. So close, but not close enough to grab hold of the excitement.
Sometimes it feels like I am able to hold joy only for a moment before it slips away again. I'm not just talking about the difficult patches, but also in the times when life feels great and easy. I have forged my way through desert seasons of life that were a painfully hard and long journey. I’m not talking days or months, but years. Yet joy felt so much more within my reach during that time.
The difference in my level of joy during those seasons was that it was not tethered to my circumstances. My heart had fully surrendered to the will of God in my life. There were many things I longed for, but my joy was not dependent on getting those things. I had resolved in my heart this one thing: I was going to trust God with my life, with or without my prayers and circumstances answered on my timeline.
Whether in a season of great hardship, or when life feels easy and peaceful, maintaining joy requires ongoing maintenance and careful attention to the posture of my heart. It also requires some level of detachment from the things and people I love the most. A healthy boundary line. A reminder to myself that people and things are not the source of my joy. Rather, the gifts from the Father are the source of endless and everlasting joy.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: God is my home. Regardless of an emotional high or low. No matter what season I’m in, whether it’s a season of flourishing or of great struggle. No matter how joyless I feel, I am learning once again to set the compass of my heart back on the truth of God's presence in my life. The people and things I love so much may feel like home, but He is my home. That’s how I find my way back to joy when I feel like it’s eluding me.
John 10:10, NIV says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The Father’s desire for each of us is much deeper than just emotional happiness. A full and satisfying life is found in our surrender to Him, and in our realization that He alone is the source of lasting joy.
PRAYER: Father, what a beautiful and yet hard year it has been. I thank you for your promise in scripture that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 NIV. Fill me with your joy and your peace today, and let me be a light and a reminder of your love to the world around me.
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