Tag Archives: joy

Joy

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When I was a kid, I thought that joy was that wonderful, effervescent feeling that bubbles up inside you and rushes through your blood on Christmas morning, or when you swing really high, or when you stand on a mountain and look out across mile after beautiful mile of green valley.

I would have described it as swelling, overflowing, intoxicating, and mine by divine right—a feeling of whimsical enjoyment that I could summon up at will, that would paint life with a fairy sparkle that would never, ever wear off.

That was a while ago.

The fairy sparkle, to be honest, comes and goes. It’s hard to effervesce when sickness strikes, or your marriage is in trouble, or you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent. At least it has been for me.

Ironically, or maybe not, I came face to face with real joy during one of the darkest times in my life. A few years ago, I entered into battle with anxiety and depression. I don’t know what flipped the switch, but I was plunged for a time into a state of acute misery. In between debilitating panic attacks that made my heart race and my hands shake, I was beset by nameless fears and a sucking darkness that made it nearly impossible to enjoy… well, anything. Children, laughter, Christmas lights, music—it all tasted like sawdust. Knocked loose from my moorings and listing badly, I lost myself—my personality, my cheerful disposition, what I had always thought of as “me”. I didn’t know what had caused it, and I certainly didn’t know how to get out of it.

I prayed almost constantly during this time, but for the first time in my life, I knew what David meant when he wrote in the Psalms begging God to stop “hiding His face”. That’s exactly what it felt like. That sense of God’s presence, that comfort in prayer, that warmth of His enfolding words—I couldn’t feel it, any of it.

And yet—even with my prayers seeming to bounce off the ceiling and fall back in my lap—I knew that He had not left me. My feelings were gone, but, despite that, my conviction that He still saw me, that He still loved me, and that my suffering was known to Him never wavered. Underneath all the pain, at the very bottom of the hole I was buried in, I found certainty. It wasn’t bubbly, or intoxicating. It was solemn, and deadly serious–a desperate lifeline in a dark and angry sea. Paul, helpless and worried about me, would comfort me by saying over and over, “This won’t last forever.” And I knew he was right. At the time, he meant to assure me that I would physically get better somehow (which, thanks to my doctor and the marvels of modern medicine, turned out to be true), but I heard it as God’s promise that suffering in this life, however incomprehensible, however long it goes on, will not last. For those who trust in Him, the light of morning will always come, even after the longest night. That is God’s promise. And I believe it.

That is my joy.

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Borrowed Bliss

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Of the myriad tiny joys embedded in my day like so many Easter Eggs in the green grass, one of the sweetest occurs in the early evening, when my route home invariably takes me past a little wooden-faced building nestled in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, a place called The Hitching Post. Often, especially in the summer, the golden rays of late sun illuminating the small brick and clapboard structure also fall upon a wedding party milling around on the lawn outside, where a bride and groom and their retinue of devoted friends are either coming or going from the short and intimate ceremony inside the small chapel.

Sometimes the bride is in full regalia–veil, train and all–resplendent and rapturous beside her tuxedoed groom and matching taffeta-encrusted wedding party. Many times, though, she is less formally attired. Passing by the Post day after day, I have seen a Western themed wedding, a Medieval wedding, and even a wedding where everyone involved, including the happy couple, wore matching tee shirts. Whatever they’re wearing, they usually stop and pose for photos in front of the Hitching Post’s famous sign, sharing hugs and smiles with gathered family as passers-by honk and wave their congratulations in the spirit of bonhomie.

Even when the whole wedding party is dressed in jeans, it’s easy to tell which ones are the bride and groom: look for the couple that is gazing intently into each other’s eyes, giddy and slightly off-balance, as if they’ve just been hit over the head with a pillow-encased anvil. Glancing at them is like glancing into the sun. The joy lingers, radiates, spreads out in concentric circles from its source to wash over even me, driving by in my dusty red car, and suddenly I’m grinning like an idiot.

I do love a wedding.