1995’s Alanis Morissette’s “Isn’t it Ironic” song used to play on repeat in my car…I’d say on 8-track because that’s how old I feel at times, but I’m sure it was CD. (Anyone else remember the giant CD cases we all used to carry in our car’s, so we could listen to our music?!) Irony is a funny thing.
For the past few years, I’ve chosen a ‘word of the year’. Some years it’s been a clear choice based on life circumstances-either what they were or what I wish they would be. Other times, it’s been based on an inward change I wanted to make. Ironically, for this year I chose the word ‘joy’. At only a handful of days into the year, the irony of this word choice did not escape me.
How can I have ‘joy’ when it looked like my husband would die; and did for 6 minutes? How can I have ‘joy’ when I am not sure the extent of damage permanently done to his body? How can I have ‘joy’ when I have NO idea how or when this will end and what our lives will look like? How can I have ‘joy’ amid children crying for a daddy that’s not here? How can I have ‘joy’ when we may lose everything? How can God REALLY expect us…expect me to have ‘joy’ THIS year while walking through ALL of this?
Habakkuk 3:17-19 we read:
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Even in the middle of complete wasteland and devastation long BEFORE there is ANY resolution or tangible promise of change and new growth, God calls us to STILL be joyful. God asks His children to TRUST Him even when with our physical eyes we see only loss. God asks His children to believe Him that even HERE, right NOW, that He IS at work, and He will DO GOOD on our behalf THROUGH ALL of what seems to be lost. (I think our obedience to choose joy IN the brokenness is the catalyst that spurs God into action.)
The interesting thing to me is that God never once asks us to be ‘happy’. There is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is circumstance specific. The temperature is a perfect 78⁰ therefore I FEEL happy. Joy is different and has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with our present circumstances. Joy isn’t ‘feelings’ based. Joy is a hopeful and peaceful expectation based from an internal trust in God. I can have joy…a hopeful peaceful expectation in ALL of my circumstances when I TRUST that God really WILL DO what He says He will do which is to work ALL THINGS together for MY good and HIS glory.
I can have joy in whatever I face if I actively LOOK for God’s hand at work while I’m walking THROUGH the hard times. If God says He will never leave me nor forsake me, then RIGHT now, RIGHT where I sit typing this, He is here-I need only to look for Him. I can have joy in celebrating birthdays and anniversaries without Chris as I look up and see the love that surrounds my family during this time.
Having joy in ALL things is our choice, and it’s fundamentally tied to our perspective-both what we focus on and who. If I walk through the remainder of this journey with Chris in the hospital focused inwardly on myself, my problems, my worries then there will be no joy. Joy is intrinsically linked to God and the worship of God that in order to experience joy-whatever the circumstance-you must stay connected to the source of all joy with your heart and eyes fully locked on His.
I don’t know what you’re walking through, but I DO know that ALL of us are either walking through a difficult circumstance right now; walking out of one or headed into one. Wherever you are, whatever you’re facing, place your eyes on God-not the circumstance-and as you do He will give you strength and feet like a deer to over whatever mountain in your path.