Getting to know Joy
“Mama, look at me.” “Mama, watch this.” “Mama, come play with us.” When my babies want to spend time with me, it can bring joy to my day. But these same moments can easily become my biggest frustration when I’m not careful. I spend the majority of the day just me and my three kiddos. This, I quickly found out, is the blessing and hardship of stay at home parenting. I have the privilege of being with my children all the time, but it can quickly turn into a job and I can lose sight of this privilege. When the days are long, joy seems to be the first to leave the house. I get cranky and short tempered. I miss moments I know are blessings all because I am so wrapped up in myself. This is where I fall short in parenting. I get in my own way. I am getting better, but it takes failing and praying that I will do better next time. So here I am trying to do better. I want to be able to lean on joy when it is not my first instinct to do so. But if I want to get to know joy, then I need to know what joy is.
I looked up the definition of joy in the dictionary: “a state of happiness or felicity.” (dictionary.com) But is joy really just some version of happiness? I have a hard time believing that joy is just a better version of happiness. If I have learned anything in motherhood, it is that I cannot make myself happy or joyful, just because I wish to be. So, I set out to find what the Bible had to say about joy, and this is what I have learned so far. Joy comes from God, and because it does, it is a source of strength and is only ever fully known by the person who receives it. Joy is a steadfast gift we learn to use through faith in the giver of this gift. When we choose to be joyful, we are choosing to trust that God is who He has promised to be, “never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17b) I love that God never changes, He never plays games or makes us guess what He is thinking. I have to put in the work of looking for answers, but the answers don’t change over time, they just become truer.
I have noticed that People try to find joy, they search for it, seek it out, and yet they come up short. They are looking to make joy happen, to find it within themselves to be more joyful. But in my experience, that only takes me so far. In Psalms 4:7, it says “you have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” God puts joy in our hearts. True joy gives me a reverent gladness because I know that I can trust God to be the same God, no matter the situation. Think of the freedom this gives, that God has given us the gift of joy so great, that it exceeds earthly expectations of need or want. With joy, our hard days as parents can be victorious because we know that even the bad days are blessings.
Joy is starting to seem more powerful than a fleeting feeling, isn’t it? In Nehemiah 8:10, it says “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy is our strength! Let that sink in, joy is a source of strength. In Nehemiah, the people had gathered to hear God’s word and instruction. It was meant to be a celebration, but when the people heard the word they were grieved because they had fallen away from God so much, that the words were painful to hear. But Nehemiah, tells them to take heart and celebrate anyway. This is a glimpse of grace. The people are being shown grace for what they had done, because of their response to hearing they were wrong. They didn’t try to deny or hide from it, but instead knew their guilt and were grieved. God wants us to see our sin, but not so that he can leave us there in it, but rather so that we become aware of it and want to walk away from it. God gives us strength through joy so that we have courage to see our sin and know that God already has it covered.
When I think of what joy means to me, and I am hit with a flood of memories. I remember those really hard days when I was alone and fighting postpartum depression. When I didn’t know what else to do, I would choose to be joyful by finding the little joys. Counting my joy became a habit and became my source of strength. Choosing to be joyful, gives me a power that is hard to explain to others. Each of us has our own story to tell, and God can us our stories to inspire and challenge others, but no one will fully know your joy the way you do. In Proverbs 14:10 it says that “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one can fully share its joy.” To be honest, I struggled with this verse for a while. How can we not share joy, isn’t that what the church does, share in each other’s’ joy? But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. We do share joy with others, but it’s not the same as experiencing joy first hand. We all have a personal and distinct relationship with God, so why wouldn’t it be true that our joy is only fully known by us.
So often I think of joy as a feeling, but the more I get to know joy and the power it has, the more it is becoming a weapon I can rely on when I need courage. Joy has power through God, because it comes from Him. I find strength in knowing that I can choose to be joyful, even when there is no reason to be happy. Joy is a reminder that God is constant and truly in charge of it all. When I choose joy, I am choosing to trust that God will lead when I have an obedient heart. My friend, I hope you can see the power in joy and that it makes you want to get to know joy too. Start small, your feelings can lie to you, but God is real and constant. I pray you see and believe the grace that comes from choosing joy.