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Falling into Joy

My mental file contains several categories for joy: Family. Nature. Silence. Music. Fluffy pets. Recreation. Gourmet food. Joy are the three shiny letters which hold our Christmas stockings. Joy is hearing that belly-giggle, a warm hug, a bowl of soup, the fire after the snow, fluffy dogs waiting at the door for your return. Joy is a sunset, a true love wedding, a long awaiting birth, that first ever smile, a life well lived. The adoption completed.

James adds his own priority category: trials. Consider joy when encountering various difficulties. Admittedly joy’s the last thing on my mind while problem solving. It’s hard enough to practice gratitude and joy when things are going smoothly. My happy place goes into hiding when I feel stressed out. I am sensing resistance to the concept of joy through struggle. Or in-spite of it. I work hard to avoid getting in trouble but end up falling or failing despite best intentions to stay on my feet. I fall into old habits and thought patterns, into checking out and not being fully present or grateful.

My life contains first world problems like epic parenting fails, clogged toilets, annoying traffic and messy relationships. I’d rate my pain level 1-2/10 on a global scale. Yet even a 1-2 can become all consuming depending on your coping skills.

Whatever your list, consider joy. At least consider. Not joy over the circumstance- like yippee, I lost my keys and my kids are freaking out and the dog threw up. But joy because I am not spared the troubles which grow patience and resilience in my soul. Someone cares enough to not let me off the hook by giving me an easy, pain-free life. My painful whatever will keep my heart awake and immune to entitlement and the paranoia of the privileged. Mental and emotional resilience deepen on the battlefield, not the beach.

Yet joy hides often too effectively in struggle. My challenge then is to pause and consider its existence. Joy is the greater reality, the deeper truth, the heartbeat of the universe, the never changing rhythm and flow I may ignore or embrace. I can’t choose all my struggles but I can choose to pay attention to joy. Consider it.

Here is a truth worth pondering. I love connecting with people who’ve wrestled through the harder parts of life, whether it’s infertility or relational crisis or health issues or grief. Something happens in a person who wrestles through hardship and emerges with gratitude instead of bitterness.  Wisdom at times stems from gut wrenching struggles and endless despair.

While I appreciate the sort of depth hardships or trials create, I still wish I could get the depth without the pain. I quickly want to move through confusion and darkness in order to get back to joy. Yet joy exist even in darkness, even when I can’t see or hear or feel it. I believe in joy regardless of circumstance or moods, James seems to say. Joy lies is deeper than struggle or circumstance. Joy is yours if you’ll consider.

I don’t want to have a wimpy soul as a result of a pain free life. I am not itching for trials and won’t foolishly plunge myself into misery to speed up joyful, soul growing.

Faith is believing in joy when circumstances suggest otherwise. Believing in what is neither felt or seen grows endurance. Endurance matters according to James. So it all circles back to joy.

So let’s consider our current trials for their capacity to create and grow within us and meaningful faith, soul deep resilience and non-circumstantial joy. Not fake, happy knee slaps, like thanks for the cancer or speeding ticket. But pausing to acknowledge a deeper reality, the bedrock of joy embedded deep in our souls. Trials will come and distract and trip us up. We will fall. But when we fall, let’s at least consider falling into joy.

My brothers and sister, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. [James 1: 2-3  NET]

This post is part of my casual commentary on James. Follow along by subscribing to my blog and share your thoughts or comment below.

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