He said it to me flat out, like he couldn’t wrap his head around the mystery of me . . .
“I’m shocked that you sound so . . . JOYFUL. You’ve been through so much in your life that would have buried so many others. And yet, you just exude this joy.”
We had never met except on the phone. This marketing guru and I got connected by another man I had met only once—a man working to help his musically gifted group of daughters called The Redhead Express crack into the limelight of country music (check them out on YouTube). I had heard them at the Washington State Fair in September and I was mightily impressed, which is saying a lot. I’m not impressed by many musicians but this group of siblings has something special and I can feel it in my bones that they are on the brink of their big break. I talked to their father—their manager—this man who became interested in my writing and wanted to connect me with his marketing friend.
So we talked on the phone, the three of us in a conference call—one in Nashville, one in Idaho, and me in Wisconsin. And the friend of this father says this thing to me about joy—about my joy. And I think. I think about that a lot later on . . .
I do have a lot of joy and I laugh loud and hard a lot even though I’ve experienced a lot of grief over a lot of loss and trauma and I’ve shed a lot of tears over the course of my 55 years. But I still have joy. I still smile full.
So why is that? And why are people surprised?
Honestly, it’s not because I’m some superwoman or Pollyanna or resilient personality. I suffer sometimes from depression and anxiety—have for most of my life thanks to a combination of genetics and circumstances—and I’ve been taking medication for the past 17 years. Honestly, I’m no poster child for stable happiness. I’m actually quite fragile in the flesh.
But joy is a different thing. Joy is a spiritual thing.
Joy can penetrate and cohabitate even with the deepest grief—even with tears. Because joy is always a knowing, not always a feeling. And you can run away with Joy by giving your pain over and into the hands of the Man of Sorrows who knows you and feels your pain and has a holy plan to extract goodness from it all, somehow. You can run away with Joy when you seek His face above all—the Joy-filled Man of Sorrows who is in control of all when you feel in control of nothing. You can give the pain over to the One who bore it all and still held joy, not despair.
Because Jesus, “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)
Jesus looked beyond His present circumstances and saw joy. He bore pain for the sake of goodness—for our good—knowing that there would be an end and that end would be our salvation—our transformation—our joy. His joy.
Jesus is why we can have joy, no matter what. He is with us and before us.
So yes, I am joy-full. Am I always happy?
How absurd to be happy when others suffer or to enjoy our sufferings. But I’m always joyful because I know today is not all there is or there ever will be. All is being transformed and made new. I will see my mother again, though she died too young from medical malpractice. I will see loved ones who committed suicide because they lost hope for too long. I will see things God has birthed through me though I’ve never birthed a child. I will see our kids whole and free from disabilities. I will see my friends whose bodies have been ravaged by disease with new bodies that suffer no more. I will live in a world without war or hunger or violence or dishonesty. I will see the lion lay down with the lamb where no blood is shed and peace reigns because the Prince of Peace reigns. And when I move my nearsighted eyes to the future that’s sure, I can withstand my present, whatever comes my way, and know more than ever, how a Man of Sorrows can be the embodiment of pure Joy.
Right here. Right now. With a vision of glory.
With God, all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
Be Thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
Be Thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
High King of Heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, oh, bright heaven’s sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision, oh Ruler of all
Thou and Thou only first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art
The Redhead Express, “When Love Comes Knockin'” . . .