How many times when sharing my heartache and struggles did I hear, "the joy of the Lord is your strength", or "joy is available to you, it's your's, it's already been given." My well meaning friends were trying to encourage me, but I would find myself deflated. Are those words supposed to make me feel better? If joy has been given then where is it? Is this supposed to be some type of treasure hunt to discover it? Am I just looking in the wrong places? I wanted to have joy. I prayed for it, but I couldn't find it. No matter how much I tried, it eluded me. What was joy anyways? Was it a feeling?
Life was beating down hard. It felt like one hurricane after another was hitting the shores of our lives, much like Florida experienced back in 2004. Did you know that 4 hurricanes hit the state of Florida in that year? One of them hit, went out to sea, then came back and hit again. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like a storm comes in, you get back up, recover a little, only to be hit again? I have.
I found myself in the middle of reading the scripture in John 16. Jesus is talking to the disciples, telling them of his impending death. He tells them that He is going to leave them, and where He goes they cannot go. Then He says to them, verse, 20, "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." That verse stopped me dead in my tracks. Wait a minute. You mean that they aren't going to have joy? What about "the joy of the Lord is your strength?" Isn't that true for them?
Jesus goes on to tell them that it will be like a woman giving birth. While giving birth she is in anguish, but once that baby is in her arms, she forgets the pain for the joy of having the child. The disciples have no idea what they are getting ready to face, really. But think about it for a minute. They have left everything to follow Christ. They have no jobs to return to. Life as they knew it is gone. They have followed the one who they thought would deliver them from the Roman rule. Things have built to a crescendo and now Jesus tells them He's leaving and they can't go with Him. What do you think they felt when they saw Him get arrested or worse, crucified. Can you just imagine how their worlds must have come tumbling in on them, like a hurricane wind toppling the roof of a house? How did they feel when Jesus was gone and life just didn't make sense? What were they to do now? There was no joy, only grief, anguish and pain. What had just happened? Where was God?
As I struggled my way through the circumstances of life, things surfaced in me. I battled doubts like I had never known before, feeling abandoned, forgotten, and even cursed by God, while those around me seemed to be flourishing. What was really true about God? Was God really there for me? Did He see me? Did He care? Why was He doing this to me? The doubts and unbelief were surfacing, tossing me about. What was I going to stand in? That's what the season was about. He wanted those things in my heart that were "shakable", leaving what was unshakable to remain. What was I going to believe?
Joy came on resurrection day for the disciples as they found Jesus. Joy was not a feeling. Joy was Jesus coming to them, victorious over sin, death and the grave, victorious over their circumstances.
Joy for me was Jesus in me causing me to rise up and declare what was true when overwhelmed with the weariness of hard circumstances; Jesus in me keeping me from sinking while walking in the quicksand of doubts and unbelief; Jesus in me putting one foot in front of the other against the gale forced winds of the hurricanes that hit my shore. In the midst of really hard circumstances I found Jesus overcoming in and through me. That was the joy that no man could take away.
To the very core of my being I believe that when we find God to be enough, in the midst of the "dark caves" of life that is joy. Circumstances still hitting us hard, we rise up in faith to stand on the truth that Jesus has come to overcome our world.
The world full of doubts and unbelief is shut down around us. In the weariness He comes and sweeps us up in His embrace. As with a child being placed in your arms after the anguish of childbirth, the pain but a fleeting memory, joy floods the soul. Just as Jesus came for the disciples at resurrection day He comes for us. Joy is Jesus in us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are alive because He is alive in us. Christ in us, the hope of glory, the joy that no man can take away.
©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd