I’ve spent a lot of time in Bible studies talking about that joy. It’s a simple three letter word, easy to pronounce, but seemingly hard to find. Being a woman with a strong group of Christians almost always around me, I find that I am told time and time again to “count every blessing.” Heck, K-Love has even been playing a song about it the past few months.
A couple weeks ago I packed my son, my two dogs (one of which was adopted two days before the hurricane hit. Genius, I know) and drove from North Carolina to Texas to flee an oncoming hurricane. What started out as a possible category 5 hurricane downgraded to “just” a category 1, and I expected I’d get a nice visit with family and then head home to clean up stray tree branches, and maybe help a neighbor or two patch a roof. What actually happened was far from the picture I painted in my head. I’m actually writing this from my in laws house, from which I have not yet left because our house is not livable. Every single room on my house has been soaked, our propane tank that is used to heat the stove is broken, and hundreds of dollars worth of food had to be thrown out, thanks to the 5 days our neighborhood was without power. Our neighbors met similar fates, and many people in my town lost everything. Knowing that our house is no longer a home has been devastating, and left me well, without much feeling of joy.
The past week I did all the good Christian things you’re told to do when you don’t feel joy. I went to church. I prayed. I made lists of the good things in my life: my family, trips to Target with my sister, my temporary living in the land of comfort food, cat videos, and all my friends and church family. I essentially counted every blessing like you’re always told to do. Each of those things were good, and have brought me happiness, but I wouldn’t say they were a source of joy. Sometimes, I felt so void of this joy, that it was a struggle to even make the list, even in the midst of what should be happy times.
But today in my readings, I realized something. I was making these long lists, counting blessings, and thanking God for my things, but not actually seeking out real joy.
Joy isn’t something like looking for like your son’s matchbox car that you search for in all the wrong places. It’s not something that you actually truly have to find. It’s more like a building. It’s something you can choose to enter in, but whether you choose to or not, is up to you. No one is going to drag you in kicking and screaming, but if you choose to go, you’ll be super glad you did. The difference between the things on earth we find happiness and joy is the things that we love on earth often fade, let us down, or are fleeting. Joy is unfailing, unchanging, and freely given. (Like Chik Fil A sauce) Joy isn’t fleeting like the pleasure of eating an 8 count nugget, that fades and builds with each visit to your favorite chicken place. It’s a lasting gift that comes from our relationship with God; a product of His grace.
Those lists don’t bring joy because joy doesn’t come from our circumstances, our location, ourselves, other people, or our things. Joy is actually a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Which means it comes from God, and nowhere else. When we slap on the label of a joyless life, it’s because we are placing our hope in the wrong places. We taking a misguided look at what is happiness and what is joy.
So, how am I finding joy in the midst of the moldy floors, loss of our belongings, the squishy carpet and the crazy temporary living situation? From my knees, with a thankful heart that through it all, I’m provided joy that isn’t based on circumstance of this world, but my relationship with an Everlasting God.