When fastened securely to emotions and the ups and downs of life, joy is at best a dim reflection of the life-giving force God means for it to be. We’ll never experience the freedom of true joy so long as it’s anchored to our ever-shifting circumstances and emotions.
There are days that I feel helpless. Shackled to a brain that refuses to function correctly. Interacting with other people and my environment is at best difficult and at worst painful. Days when the act of living is truly an act of faith.
And then there are mornings when I open my eyes and no unseen force is acting against my body making it difficult to get out of bed. I can brush my teeth without talking myself through it. My thinking clears and my mind feels sharp, alert. At these times, I feel I’ve arrived at that destination called normal. Unfortunately, I often wear a different set of shackles. I sit in a holding pattern, not trusting that the good feeling will last. Afraid to breathe, I wait for the other shoe to drop.
Already anticipating the future struggles, I’m frozen by fear. And joy seems an elusive victory.
Some of you are familiar with the place I’m writing about. Perhaps you can even picture yourself there carefully balancing a shoe. You understand the challenge of processing life, accomplishing ordinary, everyday tasks through a brain fogged with depression, grief, or the hardships of life.
You too have moments when the fog clears, but you take tentative steps forward, because you don’t know if you’ll have the strength to pick yourself up after another disappointment. In fear and self-protectiveness, you freeze, lest you lose your grip on that shoe.
The truth is the other shoe will drop sometime. The hard will come again. Such is the nature of life. As long as we journey through this side of Heaven, life will seesaw up and down. There’s just no getting around that fact. But, as I remained waiting for some unexpected circumstance to rattle my susceptible psyche, I also remained outside of the will of God.
“Rejoice always, Pray continually, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV).
As surely as Thessalonians applies in the midst of our struggles, it applies when we’re in a place of peace and hope.
I always thought I was being sensible when I told myself, “It won’t last, so don’t get too comfortable here.” In doing so, I missed the point that true joy is never tied to my circumstances; it’s found in trusting God in all life’s twists and turns. And God’s will is for me is to be joyful, thankful, prayerful.
Joy is not found only in the absence of troubled times. In Christ, the victory of joy is not claimed only when the suffering has passed.
Victory in hardship is found every time we remember to thank God for the things he’s doing behind the scenes that we just can’t see. It’s found every time we choose to rejoice in who God is instead of mourning that we aren’t enough, it’s found every moment we choose to trust and obey God rather than rely on our feelings.
And on the good days, in the moments of rest, the days when living comes easier, we must throw off the shackles of fear and claim that same victory. That same joy.
It’s time to stop waiting on that shoe, focusing on the next impending doom. It’s time to start living in the freedom of God’s ever-present joy. In every moment. In every circumstance. God gives us the power to choose faith over fear, joy over hopelessness, freedom over chains.
Join us for one of our upcoming conferences to learn how to rest in God’s deep love, embracing joy, and living authentically as you were created. Because when we live wholly loved, everything changes!