by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor
I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling ill – particularly with depression – I don’t want to do anything. Getting out of bed is a chore, tackling business or housework is excruciating, and when it’s all over we are twice as exhausted as we were when we started. Church seems out of the question. Reading the Bible seems impossible. Joy is a far-away star hurtling through the cosmos that you can’t grasp and reign in. Your world shuts down and you have no desire to grant access to anyone or anything. Sadness is a great isolator.
One of my favorite websites is www.dictionary.com (a writer’s best friend!) It defines joy as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” The primary words here are “caused by.” We don’t always feel joy. Heck, nobody does. But if you battle mental illness, that statement is especially true. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and he uses our brain chemistry to do so. He’s so, so good at stealing our joy. But knowing that joy is caused by something should give us a lot of hope!
Maybe the Enemy can snatch our joy, but we can snatch it back. How do we do that? We decide to go against our feelings of despair and exhaustion and pursue it. Job’s suffering makes ours seem almost laughable by comparison and yet even he was able to find the cause of joy and run to it.
“let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favor with him,
they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
but I did not get what I deserved.”
Job, a man who lost everything and was abandoned by everyone he ever cared for, understood what unlocks joy, and that was God himself. Jesus, of course, understood the same concept.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” –John 16:24
During a very dark period in my life, I started visiting my current church with friends who were already members there. My church is a rather Pentecostal church (no snake-handling or anything crazy like that, I promise) and at the time I was visiting, I was a member of a much more subdued church. I was in so much emotional pain that I opted out of worship altogether. I sat in my seat and cried as others raised their hands and shouted praise and I wondered how they could be so happy when we live in a world that is so cold.
But a funny thing happened as I sat there in tears – the little layer of ice around my heart began to melt. I wasn’t on my feet dancing, but I felt warm peace seep into the frigid hopelessness. I had found a tiny bit of joy, CAUSED by getting out of bed, getting dressed, and sitting in that church pew.
Say the word “joy” and two different pictures come to mind. In the first image, I see someone jumping up and down, pumping their fist in the air, shouting praise to God. In the second image, I see someone quiet and reserved, eyes closed, a tiny, peaceful smile on their lips. I believe that both of these images apply to us. Sometimes joy is all-consuming and we can’t help but shout. Other times, joy is a quiet whisper of hope in our ear, a flicker of happiness that says “take heart, God loves you.”
And I am learning that if we have no joy, whether it’s because we’re suffering a rough bout with our disease or because life is just hard in general, it’s because we’re not close enough to the cause of joy. Often, our minds say there is no hope or joy in this world, so we have to make a decision – are we going to listen to our messed-up emotions, or live by fact, which translates into walking by faith? If we want joy, we have find it.
One of the associate pastors at my church once said something that stuck with me. He said, “I want to be under the spout where the stuff of Heaven comes out.” It may be a little bit cheesy but it’s true. Corporate worship, quiet time alone with God, reading the Word, private worship and surrounding ourselves with people who compliment and encourage our faith are all “the stuff of Heaven” that cause joy. We have to get to the spout.
If you feel the walls closing in around you today, deny your pain, get up, and go find joy. The joy of the Lord is so powerful that a tiny drop is more than enough, I challenge you today to believe for an outpouring of it. Get up and get under that spout.