I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. Family and friends called and texted their well wishes. My husband, son and I went out to dinner. We saw a movie and ate cake. It was a happy birthday.
However, I recall a different kind of birthday in years gone by. It was my twentieth to be exact. Today I am far from twenty and that day was far from a celebration.
I’d spent my summer vacation sulking. I don’t recall all the details of my descent, but the emotions are unforgettable. Loneliness. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Each feeling greeted me each morning and crippled me the rest of the day.
Although I lived with my parents and spent time with friends, those interactions fell flat. I wanted to feel better but I lacked the energy to try. Future plans seemed pointless.
The name Joy brought the burden of irony to my existence. The emotion seemed out of my reach. But God’s grace drew me closer to Him when my mother asked me a question. She said, “Where is your faith?” I thought good question Mom, I could use some faith.
I was just starting my discipleship journey and I was confused about God’s plan. I thought believing in Jesus meant life would be simple, fun and free of pain. But life is a journey and what or who we seek along the way fills us or leaves us empty.
I had sought the wrong things and it emptied me of this truth:
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11
My mother’s question led me to a deeper discovery of faith and the meaning of joy. I learned faith is not how we feel; it is what we believe about God in spite of our emotions. I discovered joy is not just an emotion; it is a state of being; specifically, being in the presence of God.
I rebounded from my depression and a year later it tried to return. At my lowest point, I walked into a pharmacy to find a solution to my turmoil. But my rescue came when I sensed God’s presence. He affirmed my worth and assured me of His love. That encounter with His grace changed my life.
And these verses, taught me how to keep the change.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. – Psalms 5:11
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. – Psalm 19:8
May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. Psalm 20:5a
Now part of my life’s mission is encouraging others to discover, receive and keep joy in their soul.
I’ve had happiness interrupted by grief, disappointment, shock and dismay. But eventually, I can count it all joy when I consider who God is. Singing, praying and reading the bible (His precepts), all lead me to shout His victory. They overpower anything trying to steal my sacred delight in Him.
The art of this Joy is a work in progress. But the art of true joy is knowing the love, forgiveness and freedom that faith in Christ brings. I hope you have that joy and if not, just ask Him. He loves giving anyone who believes hope for the heart and joy to the soul.
“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10 NLT