“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!”
What is the difference between joy and happiness? How can we have joy when we live in such a broken state of the world? How can we be joyful always, even when we are in pain?
I posed these questions to the women at my Bible Study group, perhaps showing off my vulnerability but also being on the guard. They listen to my reasoning and consider my questions for a few seconds before they answer.
“We aren’t expected to take joy in the painful circumstances around us, but we can take joy in Jesus and the truth in Him.”
I have always been confused and curious about joy. About joy as a concept and even when I see joy live out in people, even in the midst of pain. Joy in pain. How is that possible?
I ask these questions as my heart physically aches, my eyes fill for no reason, and my hands shake. Pain is often a physical force, and my brokenness is on full display. How can God command me to have joy in this? It seems a cruel and unnecessary burden.
However, this is what I have been learning.
Joy is thankfulness before the Creator, even after the painful moments. Joy is laughing and celebrating life with somebody else for a while, even if you have nothing to celebrate yourself. Joy is singing during worship, even if tears are running down your checks. Joy is the delight of reading His Word, hunched over in prayer with others, and rejoicing in the reality of His grace day-by-day.
This is how I am learning joy.
I am learning joy in pain. I am learning joy in tears. I am learning joy in uncertainty. I am learning joy in vulnerability. I am learning joy in less-than-joyful circumstances. I am learning joy in painful moments, bad mental health days and in days full of clarity.
This is what I have learned about joy.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor the fruit be on the vines, though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls-yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on the high hills”
Despite the difficult circumstances around Habukkuk, he still chooses to joy in the God of his salvation. Joy is an action word, and not a passive thought. I have learned joy by actively pursuing it in giving thanks for what I know is truth. I am being made new. I am being made whole. No weapon formed against me will prosper and every tongue which rises in condemnation, I will condemn for this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord (Isaiah 54: ). Even in moments of deep, deep pain, Joy breaks out as triumphant. Our joy is triumphant in the truth of grace.
Joy is a process that comes from knowing and loving Jesus, and nothing else. I have learned that joy happens in-between moments of brokenness and the joy is not in the brokenness but in knowing what is truth.
I have learned that joy does not drive away our pain. Rather, pain and joy co-exist as fellow travellers, bringing out the best of each other. This light tends to shine out in darkness, not light in more light.
I would still not describe myself as joyful. I am still in the midst of a time of waiting, of uncertainty, and of pain.
However, that doesn’t mean that I’m still not learning joy. That doesn’t mean that I am not learning to take on my name.
My first name Savannah means barren or wasteland (thanks Mom and Dad), but my middle name is Joy. I am learning to take on the name as my own.
Joy in a wasteland, and I wonder what will happen next?