I knew after writing about wailing last week I wanted to balance it a bit with a dose of joy.
Although the feedback from my post on wailing has taught me to listen, it was a post I was compelled to write and felt deeply about. Thank you for your feedback!
What I wasn’t prepared for was the challenge to feel joy this week, after I determined to write about it. It felt like a test, a test I was failing.
I was thinking of all the verses I read about joy, and wondering if I was falling short. One of my favourites is from Romans 12:2: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. And then there’s this, also from the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18: “Always be joyful, never stop praying, be thankful in all circumstances.”
I actually really like these encouragements. But how does one hold these verses alongside Jeremiah’s encouragement to wail? To lament?
Quite truly, I do want to be joyful. I want to FEEL joyful. I want to see life on the bright side. I want to cultivate a thankful heart. I think we all do.
The verse that stopped me in my tracks this week was this one from James 1: Count it all joy, my brothers, (or sisters) when you meet trials of various kinds . . .
In my conversations with people who are suffering these questions come up. What does it mean to count it all joy? What if I don’t feel the joy… at all?
I am writing from a deep pool of honesty these days. I have had a challenging week, on many fronts. I know I am not alone, as I’ve listened to the heartache and suffering of others. Today, as I went to work, I felt fragile. And all I could do was give it to God. And the amazing thing that happened was that my own suffering seemed to help me understand the pain of others. I could truly listen. As Henry Nouwen so aptly puts it, God sometimes calls us to be wounded healers.
Even though it is well into June, I feel like we are experiencing a gray November in many ways. In the Okanagan valley we have a phenomenon called valley cloud that can blanket our communities for days in the winter season, sometimes weeks. Sometimes it it hard to breathe, it affects our air. I think in many ways, the world is in this place; this pandemic has shrouded our world with gray, with unknowns, with fear, with uncertainty. And the longer we live under this cloud of unknowing, it deeply affects us.
So where is the joy? There is that lovely verse from Psalm 30:5 which says: weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
John of the Cross wrote about the Dark Night of the Soul, acknowledging that hard place where there is no light. When we are in the shadow place, the darkness, the night came seem long. It can be a place of searching. For peace. For joy. It seems there are lessons to be learned in this place.
The hope that came to me as I thought of these examples is that joy does come in the morning. Just as we know the sun is out there, (even in the night). We believe in the sun, we know it still exists, even as we are absent from it’s presence, it’s warmth, it’s light.
So when we are encouraged to be joyful, perhaps it is not so much a feeling as it is a fact. This is faith put into practice. It is part of the whole, where joy and suffering meet.
Perhaps counting all joy can be likened to counting our blessings – and when I stop to count those, I am blessed indeed. Indeed a spirit of gratitude can be a gateway to joy.
Today as I was starting my day, the snippet of a song came to me, and I’ve come to believe these are God’s gentle whispers in my ear. The words were from the old chorus: God will take care of you.
The words go like this:
Be not dismayed whate’er betide God will take care of you Beneath His wings of love abide God will take care of you
God will take care of you Through every day, o’er all the way He will take care of you God will take care of you
No matter what may be the test God will take care of you Lean, weary one, upon His breast God will take care of you.
These words were like a balm to my weary soul. My faith strengthened as I voiced the words. This was joy, in the midst of the challenges of life.
It is like two sides of a coin, or like day and night. They are part of the whole, where we live in the reality of sorrow and pain, and also know deeply that joy is also ours. It is a deep place of knowing that we are loved, cared for, and that God knows.
And perhaps when the clouds lift, we too will feel the joy.
Joy Zentangle Art piece by Grace Wulff
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