Anyone who knows me well (or who has read this blog for awhile) knows that our family has kind of adopted the word JOY as our "word." Hannah's middle name was Joy, and it's a sweet reminder of her. It also represents our firm belief that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and is a reminder of the great joy our daughter is now experiencing in Heaven. Hannah's former bedroom is now wall-to-wall JOY stuff, and has become one of my favorite places to be.
But sometimes in daily life, joy is hard to hold onto.
Birthday cakes with no one to blow out the candles, anticipation of the holiday season, and an empty chair at the table day after day and year after year ... these things can really put a dent in my joy ... like a dent the size of the Grand Canyon!
Some days this is what my joy looks like ...
And some days it's a little more like this ... (This may be my favorite picture of all time.)
But then, I get a note in the mail like the one I received on Hannah's birthday this week (you can tell that this is someone who knows my love for the word "JOY") ...
... And some of that joy comes back.
Joy can come from the smallest things ... like a note on a difficult day, a hug from an understanding friend, or even a beautiful sunset. In fact, I believe that one of the best things we can do when we're hurting is to ...
Easier said than done, I know. When we've suffered a great loss, it's hard to imagine that we'll ever find joy again. But little by little, if we train ourselves to look for and name those little things that bring even the faintest glimmer of joy to our hearts ... gradually, bit by bit, inch by inch ... God faithfully begins to restore our joy.
Is it hypocritical to try to conjure up joy in our hearts when we're just really not feeling it? Take a look at this quote from the book "Kingdom of Love" by Hannah Hurnard.
"What about praising even when the disappointment feels very real? Does that mean we're faking it and fooling ourselves? No. It means we're being obedient. It is never hypocrisy to act as we earnestly desire to feel, even though the feeling may be very contrary at the time. Feelings follow action."
I really like that.
And here's what I'm going to leave you with on this Thoughtful Thursday. I've been thinking lately about this verse in the sixth chapter of Ecclesiastes (v. 20).
"For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart." (NKJV)
I could spend a lot of time dwelling unduly on the days of my life ... and when I do that, it seems like that's when I lose my joy. I'd much rather let God keep me busy with the joy of my heart. And you know how it is when you're busy and your heart is full of joy ... time goes by fast. And hey, that sounds pretty good to me!