The other day I was feeling particularly whiny. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but as I talked through some things with Jerry, I realized that I just needed to let some air out of the tires, so to speak. It’s the holiday season, which I fully embrace, but it can be full of opportunities for stress. And not just because of the ever-present gift buying and overscheduling.
There’s a darker side of the holiday season that forces us to see the bad things, the loss, and those who are hurting. It’s hard to see those things in the face of all the jolly music and happy themes, but they are still there whether we take the time to see them or not. I have been there and in those difficult times and all I wanted was to be seen and heard by people. But I realized that what I really needed to do was focus on God’s promises to me. He never promised me a life of justice and ease. But he did promise to love me, to be the hope and joy that I couldn’t find in this world.
Angry and forgotten, I would cry myself to sleep wondering what I had done wrong, asking why me? But in this searching for why me, I lost the meaning. Instead of saying, “why are these things happening to me?” I realized the real question was, “why does God care about even the smallest joys in my life?” Because He did. And he does. And it’s not just the joys in my own life. It’s all joy. He is joy. We just need the eyes to see it.
Joy has risen. Hope HAS come.
I spend a lot of my life on the internet. It’s where I do my job, where I socialize, and where I learn. And I have some pretty hard and fast rules for the way I behave. Looking through my feeds, my content may seem pretty light and silly. That is entirely by design. It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt or think about hard things. But when I contribute to the noise, I want to lift people up, not tear them down. Not out of some self-righteous mission, but because my joy, my hope has come and that is what I want to focus on. When I’ve had a bad day at work or the kids are fighting or I get some really bad news, or someone says something hurtful to me, I have to guard my heart. The only thing I can control is my response.
The truth is, joy has always been there.
It came in the form of a baby born in a barn. It came in the form of a living God walking among His people. It came in the form of a revolution transforming thousands of lives with nothing but word of mouth to light an unquenchable fire. It came as a grandfather broke from his family religion and forged a new path of Jesus-following that would be passed down for generations. It comes daily in the lives of those all around me who point me back to truth when I am feeling low and unloved.
My search is not for justice or importance. It’s not for retribution against those who hurt me. My search is for joy. My search is for the ability to love the unlovable. My search is to live it and not just say it. My prayer is that my heart does not harden against the very life God has given me. My hope is that when I am faced with impossible struggle, I would not cry, “why me?” but instead, “God how will you use me here?” It’s when I gave in to anger and hurt that I did the most damage to that heart, slowly and steadily building walls around my joy.
But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy! For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead! Isaiah 26:19
I will stand for joy and for God’s love, His truth, and His faithfulness as long as I live. Because He is faithful and will never give up on me, even when I feel forgotten. For those who are in the trenches this holiday season, my prayer is that you will see that glimmer of joy through the dark times and be able to cling to it and receive life.
This is the joy. This is the hope. This is the promise.