Upgrading to Joy

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 33:25-27

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.

 *** 

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.
She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.

Author: Pastor Bryan Lowe

A repentant rascal with definite issues, but who is seeking to be authentic in his faith to Jesus Christ. An avid reader and a hopeful writer. Husband and father. A pastor and Bible teacher. A brain tumor survivor. Diagnosed with clinical depression, epilepsy, and now disabled. Enjoys life, such as it is, in Alaska.

4 thoughts on “Upgrading to Joy”

  1. Thanks for the post. I never knew what it was like to go thriough depression. Ive had wonderfull times in the Lord andd a lot of failure too. But several years ago my wife started drinking and would literally try to beat me to get out of the house to get more. I wouldnt let her drive in that condition. I eventually found out that there were affairs with several men going on. She asked for forgiveness and we tried to go on but she still wanted to have a relationship with 2 of them and continued drinking. I couldnt deal with that and continually asked her to stop and got other family members involved, maybe not a good idea but I just didnt know what to do. She filled for domestic violence saying that I kept her in the home, and she filled for divorce. I was not convicted of the charge but had to move out until the court date. So I decided to remain out and let her stay at the home. After the divorce I fell into a depression over the whole thing. 15 yrs of marraige and 5 children and Im now by myself, alot. The main loss was the marriage and Ive cried out to God about that. The hurt after pouring 15 yrs into those you love and then to be accused of DV when your trying to protect them really got to me and I started drinking and entering into other things that were unhealthy, which compounded my already low view of myself. I dont think it was that I was judgmental, I think I just didnt know how to handle that kind of grief. It been almost a year now without drinking and am doing better at functioning but have a long way to go….. Its still hard every day to get out of bed and to believe that He hasnt forgotten “me”. I still weep over things, my sin included. And still at time feel very depressed. Your blog post was helpfull, especially with resilience to go on, let go of the pain and seek that “spout”, of Him. Thanks !!!!!!!

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  2. Julie, This is a great post! Thank you for sharing. I especially like the picture of joy that involves sitting quietly. I always try to remember that joy and happiness are not exactly the same thing, and that we can find joy in the Lord even in sad circumstances. “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. (I know that verse, but just looked it up on Biblegateway.com for the cite. It made me smile to remember that the first Bible study I ever went to, that I was invited to when I was suffering from major depression and it was a struggle to make myself go each week, we were studying Ezra and Nehemiah.) Peace, Linda

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