A few days ago, I was scrolling facebook and I saw a video that was labeled something like, “the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.” Of course I click, and soon see a possessed women try to strangle and beat up a stranger on a train. There was such hatred in her eyes and such fear in his. The fear led the man to fight back and it was one of the ugliest things I have ever seen.
I am reminded often at how hard the world is. When seeing or hearing of Satan's work, I have felt something piercing my heart since I was little. Though I have known for years of the brokenness of the world, I have felt even more strongly the hope that the Lord has for us. The evil didn't seem to defeat me.
Lately, I have been sad to the point of despair. With NO JOY. I feel ‘seasoned’ in the ways of life. And God feels further away...and like He is losing in the world.
You can probably relate: There was one specific prayer that I have prayed for awhile…and it didn’t come true. Actually, it seems like the opposite happened. That spurred on a frustration with God and a hopelessness.
Thankfully, a week ago, I went to a Page CXVI concert. The woman spoke eloquently about joy and despair. She said that the opposite of joy is not despair; it is fear.
With her words, I learned forward and sat up straight.
How is fear the opposite of joy?
Joy rests on hope and faith in God. Joy can be felt when all things in your life are hitting the fan. Like Paul in prison...having joy! I’ve learned that happiness (unlike joy) is a reaction to the events in your life (or a reaction to your perception of them). Joy can remain completely untouched by your day-to-day circumstances. Joy defies logic. Happiness agrees with logic.
When we TRULY KNOW Him and what He has done for us, joy can exist! It becomes less about living for ourselves and more about living for a God that adores us. Our purpose is always intact. If He is what we want, we will always have what we want. In that way, we can feel joy even if we are in our worst situation in life. No situation is that bad.
When we talk about happiness, we typically describe it as our humanly pleasure. It occurs when we get what we want.
But joy is happiness to the next level, its seeking happiness from things that don't fade: God
James 1:2- "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
So, it seems to me that it is at least it is possible that joy comes from knowing God…not from our circumstances.
And this is when the Page CXVI girl’s comment about fear and joy made sense: I think fear clouds our trust and knowledge of God’s sovereignty more than anything else. If joy comes with truly resting in God and His unfading care for you, fear comes when we doubt/can’t see that. Often that fear that God isn't close can make joy feel so distant from us and life feel so hopeless for us. We become worrywarts who ‘cant possibly’ get over certain hurdles. We stop living in constant recognition of God’s provisions because we are scared that we aren’t provided for at all. It is no wonder at all why ‘Do not fear’ is the number 1 command in the Bible.
And then the fear turns to despair and the despair leads to becoming a hopeless person, just as I am.
Somehow it all seems to connect.
Now, where I’m at now is trying to figure out a way out of this ugly cycle. I don’t want to feel joyless -> I don’t want to fear that God isn’t protecting me -> and I definitely do not want to be hopeless for the world and for myself.
So maybe when I feel hopeless I should get back to the root of my hopelessness instead of trying to cure it in ways that don’t work. In high school, I used to ‘cure’ my hopelessness and sadness with a shopping trip to a boutique. In the beginning of college, I ‘cured’ it by putting all of my eggs in one basket: my then-boyfriend. Later in college, I would ‘cure’ it by forgetting everything and escaping to an adventure.
But none of these things truly heal. They might distract, but they don't heal. The root of true, undefeated joy seems to be KNOWING and TRUSTING God: truly realizing His promises to us, how big they are, what our lives are really about. Its about knowing those things in the bad circumstances...and knowing that no matter what, we are loved, we have purpose, we are on God's team and He is undefeated.
This is something I am going to be working on in this next season… focusing on trusting God instead of purely on my own happiness (which can be achieved at Nordstrom Rack). Because with sadness as big as the sadness I’m feeling for the world…I need a joy that is bigger, not just a temporary happiness. I truly believe that trusting God will have sad moments (and man! I have been feeling them lately), but I also have hope that it leads to that BIG joy that can somehow co-exist with moments of sadness. I WANT THAT JOY. I am choosing to trust Him. I trust that He is big enough to fill all the voids in my soul. I believe that He sees and cares about the cruelty in the world more than I do. I trust Him with my future and with my past. There is no need to be hopeless. He is carrying everything that I have tried to hold.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.