What I’m Learning About Joy

If you asked me at any point over the past year or two how I’m doing, my answer probably included something to the effect of “Really good.  X, Y, and Z are great.  This one thing (fill in the blank with all variety of “trials”) is really stressful/scary/difficult, but I feel like God is using this as a growing season for me.”  And the Lord most definitely has been growing me.  But I’ve come to know two things about “growing seasons”:  the first and probably the most obvious, is that growing is not a comfortable thing.  It is beautiful and wonderful and necessary, but it rarely ever comes without some discomfort.  The second (which feels like a blessing and a curse) is that my life is a perpetual series of “growing seasons”.  I’ll feel like I’ve reached the light at the end of a tunnel, like the Lord has brought me out on the other side of a trial and drawn me closer to Him in the process (which He always has), and five minutes later I’ll find myself in a brand new tunnel.  Just when I thought I had conquered the tunnel season . . .

The Bible talks a lot about rejoicing at all times, being joyful and giving thanks regardless of your circumstances.  I know in my head and even believe in my heart that God is good all of the time.  But truth be told, those growing seasons and long dark tunnels don’t really spark celebration in me.  And it’s a thought that’s been tumbling around a lot in my head lately—how am I supposed to “count it all joy” when I meet trials?  I can maybe hold myself together and not have a total meltdown knowing that there’s joy once I get to the end of the tunnel.  But actually rejoicing in the middle of it?  While I’m facing the trials and they’re growing me and stretching me and pushing me into all those uncomfortable places I’d rather not walk through?  What am I supposed to celebrate in the middle of the mess?

In my current growing season, it feels like the concept is just beginning to click a little for me.  I don’t “count it all joy” because eventually everything will get better, or eventually I will have learned enough that I can move beyond this trial and come out on the other side with a stronger faith, and that eventually the Lord will take pity on me for all the struggling and will finally bless me with comfort and happiness and a sweet easy season as a reward for perseverance.  I know that God does work all things for our good and His glory.  He loves to bless us.  But eventually can be a really long time.  And sometimes things just get worse and worse.  Or one thing gets better, and a dozen other things immediately fall apart.  But I don’t count it all joy because things will get better; I count it all joy because Jesus is better.  And He is mine.  Now.

I don’t have to wait for joy to come in the morning.  Smack dab in the middle of the mess and the ugliness and the struggle, Jesus is with me and for me.  That’s as true as it ever was.  When I don’t understand why I have to endure something that feels so hard or so unfair, when my feelings are hurt, when my soul is tired, I still have my Savior.  Jesus loves me and invites me to know Him.  And He is joy.  He has loved me since before the world began, and He gave his life so that I could know Him—that I could be His and He could be mine.  The greatest blessing I could ever receive has already been given to me.  Paul says it so well in Philippians, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth or knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  My Jesus is more than enough. And because invites me to know Him, abundant joy is always already mine for the taking.