May 6, 2008

Finding Joy in These Days

The whole world seems to be in a bad mood. And I can't really blame them. As excited as I am to see January 20, 2009 come, this election season seems to be dragging on endlessly as everyone waits to see which Democrat will finally win the nomination and as we try to figure out if McCain will just be another Bush. Add that to a falling economy, rising gas prices and rising food prices and it's the perfect recipe for a bad mood.

And that's just in the U.S. The rising cost of food is crippling other countries and a cyclone in Myanmar just killed 22,000+ people. The war in Iraq keeps dragging on and the situations in Zimbabwe and Sudan don't seem to be improving. What a world.

Joy has always been a concept that I had a hard time with. I remember in high school, my church's pastor (not the same church I attend now) was dealing with a rebellious daughter. His other daughter had always been involved with the youth group at our church (she's a few years older) and acted as a sort of mentor to the girls. And amidst these sad circumstances she was always smiling and full of joy. My friend and I asked her how she always seemed happy and her answer was quite simple: She chose joy. So simple to say but excruciatingly hard to do. I've heard it said that happiness is based on circumstances and joy is based on attitude. This is when I wish God loved lists as much as I do. Then he could have given me a five-step process to being joyful:

1. Eat chocolate
2. Pray the exact prayer found in 2 Hesitations 3:14
3. Take two ibuprofen
4. Drink a margarita
5. Pray the prayer again and voila! Joy!

But our God is not a God of lists or five-step processes or 40 days to a new you. He's a God that wants us to pray and delight in Him. I just started reading Desiring God last night for the first time (I know, I know--it's a classic. But I'm slow on the non-fiction reading). I had heard the concept of Christian hedonism before and I had heard John Piper being quoted as saying "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him." But in these trying times (both in my own life and in the world around me), it rang more true than ever before.

A few weeks ago I was reading a blog and the author had a link to some of her music she'd recorded. The first song she linked to was "Weight of Joy." I put this song on repeat, downloaded it and then played in on repeat for two weeks. It's such a simple song but has such a profound message. It basically says that sometime during life she (I) was juggling and struggling with everything, and she dropped God's joy in order to "make room" for other things. "Relieved of its weight I trudged forever on, but the absence of joy had transferred to a burden on my heart." She continues on until she ends her journey on her face. God finds her "hollow and alone" and He gets down on His knees and hands her joy.

He gets down on His holy knees and handed her joy.

I'm not saying I'm depressed and on the verge of a breakdown. I'm nowhere near that. But reading the news and hearing about the struggles in the lives of others and in my own life--it can be burdensome and it's easy to drop God's joy. So many questions about the future and what this means or what that means or trying to ignore loneliness or trying to learn about a God who can seem so distant--it can all be overwhelming. But through it all, He's right there, whispering softly in my ear "My child you dropped this back there" and He hands me joy.

Psalm 37:4-6
Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.