Sunday, May 17, 2015

when joy doesn't smile

what is joy?
how do you define it?
is it an emotion? a feeling?
is it simply happiness? or something entirely different?

Merriam-Webster defines joy as:
1 a :  the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires :  Delight
b :  the expression or exhibition of such emotion :  Gaiety
2 :  a state of happiness or felicity : Bliss
I am sure that if you have spent a lot of time in the church you have heard that joy isn't dependent on circumstances.
Many times I feel that as a Christian I am required to always be "good".
"Grace, how are you?"
Good, fine, #blessed.
But sometimes I don't feel fine.
Sometimes times everything isn't good.
So what is joy? Is joy lying and plastering on a face?
What is joy when a friend is diagnosed with cancer?
What is joy when you loose a loved one?
What is joy when family is fighting?
What is joy when there is no "success, well-being, or good fortune" displayed in your life?
What is joy when emotions and feelings are filled with sadness and a lack of understanding?
Is it just a smile?

Now these definitions are well and good but I would say that the third and final definition that they give is more accurate.

3:  a source or cause of delight
In 2nd Corinthians 5:11-6:2, Paul talks about reconciliation/restoration with God and how we are made new, entirely and completely by the grace of God. He then goes on in verses 3-13 to describe many hardships that have come because of following after Christ. He mentions beatings, imprisonments, hunger, among other things and says that they endure by the Holy Spirit, genuine love, and the power of God. "We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known;" and continues until you reach verse 10.
"as sorrowful; yet always rejoicing"
If joy is happiness then this cannot be.
But I would say that joy is much much deeper. Earlier in the same letter Paul writes saying that they are "perplexed but not driven to despair" (4:8). Perplexed is defined as in doubt, at loss with oneself, and not knowing which way to turn. But despair is utter loss and has renounced all hope. Joy is found mingled up with faith and hope and encompassed in love. Joy is embracing the sadness, feeling the hurt, yet declaring that the source and cause of delight is found in Christ. In Daniel 3, you can read about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they were to be thrown into a fire because of their dedication to the Lord and yet even in the face of that they stood before the king and declared that God could save them. And then they say some very powerful words, "But if not"... If we aren't spared, He is still worthy. 
Joy looks at the pain and declares,
God is good, even though my circumstance isn't.
Jesus loves me, even though I don't feel lovable.
Everything will be ok, even if the worst case scenario comes true, because I am holding fast to a promise. 
And this promise says that even in the midst of tears now,
one day they will be wiped away.
"Oh My lovely child, one day you will wake up and see Me with the biggest smile, arms open wide, and you will get the embrace you so desperately long for. You will wake up and every pain will cease, the ache for My fullness satisfied. One day you will wake up and better than merely a bad dream, this will all have been worth it."

This is my promise. So when I am "as sorrowful", I don't have to pretend to be happy but I cling to the promise and know... that even as sorrowful, even in tears, I am always rejoicing.

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