So here I am, in another chemo treatment. I’ve had an IV hooked up to me for several days now, and one bag of glorified poison trying to take out my bladder for the better part of 24 hours. (It hasn’t succeeded.)
The doctors and nurses are once again beside themselves with my attitude, and with the lack of side effects that have hit me. (Apart from some nausea which I prayed away in the middle of the night, there hasn’t been any.)
Since we learned that the cancer was back, I have had several very seasoned, loving, mentor-type figures ask me if I am angry at God for letting this come back. Especially after such a miraculous healing last time, and such a seeming triumph. I have always responded that I am not angry at God. They have then frowned at me and said, “Are you sure? Because it’s natural to be angry at God. It’s okay if you feel that way.”
But I have never been angry at God (either now or, to my recollection, prior.) He gave me as much warning as anyone’s ever got that something was coming back. And, as I pointed out before, every miracle has a shelf-life, anyway — just like us. This particular shelf-life was just a little shorter than some suspected it would be. But more than any of that, I know that God loves me. I know that Jesus has my back. And I know that, no matter where I am, no matter what I’m going through, I am being held.
I was in a conversation with a coworker recently, and she brought up a philosophy test she took (and bombed) in high school regarding if happiness was actually something that could be attained in a lasting, lifelong way, or just a fleeting emotion that was here one second and gone the next. Most of the philosophers quoted in the class said that happiness was the latter, and the former is an unattainable pipe-dream. I actually agree for the most part with the philosophers. However, I only agree so far as happiness goes. I think there’s a whole other dynamic to well-being, and that is joy.
For me, joy is something completely different from happiness. Happiness comes and goes. It is a flitting, inconstant emotion that jaunts where it will and allows no man to grab hold for very long. But joy is something that can remain. You can be having the day from hell and still be filled with joy. Not so with happiness. You can choose to be ruled by your emotions, or you can choose to let joy overrule them. I always try (and often succeed) doing the latter.
But where does this joy come from? How can a person be the life of the party in a cancer ward, when that person has cancer himself?
It’s because the joy doesn’t come from me. It comes from Someone Else.
Psalms 16:11 says that “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” And in Psalm 30:5 it says, “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
In John, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (1) A little while after that, He says, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (2) Then, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (3)
In Romans Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (4) Later, he follows that up with, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (5) Lastly, in Galatians he nails the point to the proverbial door when he says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (6)
And James really takes it home when he says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (7)
What do these verses tell us about the nature of joy? Not happiness, but the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit and God Above? They tell me that it is more than an emotion. That it is something that can, and should, be with us always. And that, when trials abound, we should find it even there.
This is what I have found to be the case. This is why I am such a “happy” person. It’s not because I’m happy at all. It’s because I am infused with a holy joy that does not begin or end with me.
I am able to rejoice every day, because no matter what my circumstances look like, I know that I am being held in the tender, powerful hands of my Heavenly Father. I know that I am being cradled in the wings of the Almighty God. And I know that my big brother Jesus is fighting for me, without ceasing. And that is an incredible feeling. He will do it for you, too. All you have to do is ask.
When the trials of this world come to call do they find happiness in you, or do they find joy? Would you like some more of the joy I’m talking about and a little less of the sometimes-there happy vibes? Then pray to God. Tell Him you want that joy that overflows and abounds. Tell Him that you want that fruit of the Spirit that knows no beginning or end, but somehow makes its home in your tiny vessel. (And that goes for all of the fruits of the Spirit by the way: in fact, that goes for the Spirit Himself.) And then, when the trials do come (or if they’ve already arrived), count it all joy.
What’s your take on joy? I’d love to hear it.
(1) John 15:11
(2) John 16:22
(3) John 16:24
(4) Romans 14:17
(5) Romans 15:13
(6) Galatians 5:22-23
(7) James 1:2-4
Image (c) Can Stock Photo