Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Joy Seems Impossible to Keep

Living is hard.  Living joyfully is harder.

If someone tells you it's always easy to find joy, peace, security, and complete happiness, they're either lying to you, lying to themselves...or still living in the blissful innocence of childhood.

Something is always either waiting in the wings to steal your joy, in the act of stealing your joy, or running off with your joy tucked under its arm.

I used to think the trick in life for God's children to be joyful was to just fight harder to be a conquerer in these situations, holding on until my nails were bloody.  Never letting go no matter what.  Yet, that logic only led to me feeling more a failure when I found myself sitting in the midst of a war-torn battlefield, my heart ravaged by the depths of joyless, anxious, hopeless despair.

While I do think it is important to prepare for the thief in the night by staying in the Word of God, in close communion with a church family, and in prayer, I'm learning that the trick in life is not always to keep my joy from being stolen but to know Who to turn to in order to get it back.

I haven't always felt joyful over the past seven years since my life became a living soap opera nightmare. Sure, sometimes it's taken me more days and weeks than at other times, but I've always known Who my joy is and have eventually sought Him out to fill me up again with the joy of His presence.

In the lowest of low times, I've bitterly asked God what Bible character He was going to have us live out next or when He'd get on with the "rest of the story."

My husband and I have lived out the Biblical story of Joseph--experiencing the betrayal, the lies, the false accusations, the false imprisonment, the loss of status and reputation.

We have lived out the Biblical story of Job--losing unborn children, losing wealth, losing a career, losing friends. 

Many days?  I feel like we're still living out the stories of these two men.  To date, we're still waiting for their happy ending, their restoration in to happen in our life.

This past week, the Job part of our life's saga struck again, this time with my employment taking a hit for the entire Spring semester.  I knew it was coming.  I just didn't know how bad it would be until last week.

And then?  I prayed, prayed, prayed for God to fix it miraculously.  I enlisted others to pray. 

Tonight after the children went to bed, I finally received the answer to those prayers.  God said no.

But as I sat in somber silence unable even to put into words my feelings to speak to God, He reminded me of a story I haven't read in years, the one where the prophet Nathan goes to King David, condemns him for hiding his sin of adultery and murder, then prophesies that the son David conceived with Bathsheba would die.

Scripture records the next six days of David's life as a time spent doing little more than praying to God:

David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them (2 Sam. 12:16-17).

Despite those pleas, on day seven, the child died.  When David hears this news, Scripture says,

Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate (2 Sam. 12:20).

My Father told me this evening that this is what I must do.  God had ruled on the subject.  It was time to be like David and live, worship, remember to trust in Him even in this hard time.

In all honesty?  I do still feel sad.  I feel anxious and concerned about financial issues, about taking care of my children. This year will be a difficult one and will require continued prayers for God to open different avenues of help. 

But in the midst of these tears, I am comforted to think my Father took the time to see me in my sorrow.  He stepped down from His throne for me, to send my heart remembrance of a particular Scripture.

Saying no to my prayer does not mean He loves me any less.  Always.  He longs to be my joy and strength, your joy and strength.

Image: Johnny jump ups in my flower bed--true beauty in the midst of the barrenness of winter.


  1. Sorry about the loss. I have no idea what it would be like to face all those struggles. I am praying God will meet the needs that arise but even as I do I know that He will.

    I have a masters degree from Tulane and I have not worked outside my home in 10 years. At times that has been difficult to deal with and at others a great blessing. Everytime I pray to ask God if I should try go back to work He tells me no. I sub a little at the middle school but it is few and far between. I volunteer at church several hours a week. I cannot tell you of the financial jams we have been in that God has made a way out of.

  2. What I meant to say is "of all the financial jams" because it would take a 1000 words.

  3. So sorry to hear of your struggle. I've thought a lot about the song by Kutless lately--Even if the Healing Doesn't Come. It played on KLOVE on the way to our friend's memorial service last Saturday. I remember thinking how beautifully appropriate that we should hear it. She lost her battle to cancer on this earth. But she gained. Oh, she gained.

    We couldn't have known that that song would be chosen to be played during her service. So very beautiful.

    Sometimes it seems so easy for us to dig our heals in and believe for something. But when that something is denied, real testing begins. Sister, know that I care deeply. And I'm praying now that God will cover you with peace during this season. I'll stand on His promises with you believing for Him to send in the provision in unexpected ways. And that you'll only need to sit back and bask in the glory of your Provider. That perhaps this season will be one of rest for you--physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

    This year, together, may we learn to rest in Him and no longer "wrest" over that which He has in store for us. Much love.