What does joy feel like? Is it the exuberant bliss when you first fall in love? Is it the abundant happiness when everything is going your way? What does it truly feel like? What does it look like? Is it flowers and blue skies and fields of green, or is it the glint of sunshine reflecting off the sea? If you could paint a picture of true joy, what would it look like?
I love to watch small children, when I look into their smiling faces I believe that unfettered joy is a reality. Every moment of the day seems to exude joy in the eyes of a toddler. Wonder, amazement, and delight dance in their eyes; until it is bedtime, or they fall down, or they are told “no”.
I think that some of us never really outgrow that stage. We envision our joy will be sustained if we meet the right person and fall in love. And when the reality hits that this person isn’t everything we thought they should be, we crash into bitterness. We see a life that is our ideal of happiness; pink sandy beaches where we ride unicorns and laugh at clouds and never toil. But when the true harshness of life meets us, we throw a tantrum like a little kid.
So what does real joy feel like? How do we know we have attained a joyful life? When does that gift of the spirit become a reality and not just a verse memorized to make us feel better?
Maybe true joy isn’t something that you just feel, maybe it has to become something that you know. Maybe it becomes a part of you as you walk in the spirit. Maybe it sinks into your bones as you travel with Jesus. Maybe it oozes through your veins providing nutrients to your brain to help you make it through the rough times. Could it be that we have to live with the essence of true joy at our core to truly understand its nature?
Everyone wants to be happy, there is a billion-dollar entertainment industry in Hollywood to prove it. We seek happiness at work, home, and in all corners our lives, but happiness is different than joy. Happiness will raise your spirits for an instance, but joy will save you for the future. Joy is the life sustaining hope that everything will work out for the best.
A little over a year ago, I felt like I had lost all hope, all faith, and all joy I my life. I reached an end and the obstacles in my way seemed insurmountable. I was waiting for a feeling that I would be fine and when it didn’t come, I decided to choose the hopeless alternative of suicide. One friend saved me from my stupidity and joy slowly seeped back into my life. But I had to recognize that my joy was not dependent on my life circumstances, it was dependent on a God that is bigger than any problem that stood in my way.
Now, when I think on joy, I realize that it is a decision I have to make every day. I choose to trust God with outcomes that may not be what I had hoped for, but know they are for the best. I choose to look with wonder and awe at the world around me like a wide-eyed child. I seek to see beauty in the mundane and amazement in the moment. But mostly I rely on a God who can sustain me through the trying times and provide a joy that surpasses all understanding.
My vision of what joy looks and feels like has evolved into a more adult understanding of joy that has melded with childlike openness at the possibility of joyous outcomes even from the darkest days. My joy starts where I end. Joy without Jesus is an impossibility! But life with the King can transform hopelessness into joy filled living.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a part-time basket case who wants to be a full time writer.