On this journey called life, I have learned a few things. I pray, those few things I share, they will help you on your journey.
We often hear “I just want to be happy.” Some express that happiness is obtained when they secure a certain job, certain income, get married, or have children. Those desires are obtained, yet sometimes happiness still is not achieved. Sometimes those desires are obtained, and one does become happy. At some point, those desires are lost, and happiness goes with it. Then there are the individuals who appear to have so extraordinarily little yet appear to be so “happy.” Those who have been on their death bed yet seem so happy. Those who have debilitating physical challenges yet seem to shine. Sometimes we scratch our heads, perplexed. How can this be? How can some, who have nothing or are in challenging situations, be so happy! How can some who appear to have it all, seem so unhappy! Thus, we arrive at the crossroads of Happiness and Joy.
Now these are not hard-core definitions, just conclusions I have drawn from personal observations and experiences. Happiness appears to be contingent on external factors. “I’m happy today because the sun is shining.” “I’m happy because I received a pay raise.” “I’m happy because the customer service representative solved my problem.” Happy. Suppose the sun did not shine, a pay raise was not received, or the customer service representative did not solve the problem? There goes the happiness.
Joy, on the other hand, appears to come from within. We have seen those courageous individuals who co-exist with physical disabilities yet light up a room with their smile. We see individuals who appear to have lost everything materialistically speaking, yet still shine a bright smile. What is wrong with these folks? It is called Joy! Joy is an element that comes from within. I was a proud member of a group called The Pioneer Girls. Pioneer Girls was a Christian-Based Girl Scout type of group. We did similar activities and earned similar badges. However, we also had to memorize scripture and acronyms which we were challenged to live by. One of the acronyms I recall was JOY. It was how we were supposed to live our lives. Filled with JOY by putting Jesus first in our lives. Then we were tasked to be kind to others and to treat others with the love of Jesus (ya’ll know that is hard sometimes!). Then we are to love ourselves. Now since that time, I have juggled the last two, depending on the circumstances. That is the whole oxygen mask scenario. You know, when you get on the plane and the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first then, your children or whoever is with you that may be unable to do so themselves. However, ultimately, the overall word itself, joy, has always stuck with me.
Throughout life I have seen the distinction between joy and happiness played out in various ways. A baby is happy as long as he/she is fed, dry, and loved on. We all know! You mess with one of those through, and it is on and poppin! I will never understand how so much vocal power can come out of such a small body. LoL. The materialistic driven folks are happy as long as they have the material things that they want, not necessarily need, but want.
Let us look at the joy-filled folks. Sometimes you may ask “what is wrong with them!” “I don’t see anything to be happy about!” That is the point! The source of joy is not visible. The source of joy is not tangible. The source of joy is not found in material things. The source of joy is not found in the chaos of the world. The source of joy lies deep within. Joy is spirit. Joy is soul. Joy is thinking about and appreciating and meditating on what you do have vs what you do not have or outside circumstances. Amid this pandemic, we can all find some joy. Do you wake up every morning? Does the sun still shine? Do you still have a roof over your head (I did not ask if you can pay the rent or mortgage just recognizing you have shelter)? Does the water come out of the faucet when you turn it on? Do the lights come on when you flip the switch? Is your spouse healthy? Are your noisy, energetic children happy and healthy (yes, I know, you are about to pull your hair out because they are driving you nuts!)? Are all or most of your family members health (granted, some, unfortunately may not be. We keep them constantly in prayer)? Do you see where I am going with this? Amid chaos, confusion, sickness, and fear, we can search and find the joy that lies within.
My oldest granddaughter was gravely ill this past season. My heart stopped for a month (figuratively). Firstly, I am hear to tell you that prayer works! Christian or Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, etc. sincere prayer works! I praise and thank God daily for her life. I digress for a moment. If you do not know God for yourself, ask God to forgive your sins, believe that Christ died to save you, ask Him to come into your life. Then ask Him to teach you and show you how to pray. He will direct the right people, song, program, thought, circumstance, in your path, to lead you on the journey to a sincere prayer life.
Each time I look at my granddaughter I am filled with joy that she is alive and thriving. However, I am not happy that she must wear a device planted in her little chest. That device keeps her heart beating, in the event, her heart stops. Throughout history we have seen how joy has been what has caused some courageous people to survive. “Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” Nelson Mandela! Wow! How many years in prison, yet he maintained his dignity and integrity! “Whoever doesn’t know it must learn and find by experience that a quiet conscience makes one strong!” Anne Frank. Wow! I am going to just let that one sit there for a moment!........... Joy! Joy! Joy! In difficult, desperate times, we must find joy! I often hear people’s analogy of sheltering in place compared to being in prison. I would challenge each of those individuals to perhaps consider offering their “prison” to a true prisoner, one who is behind bars. I do not know about you, but our homes should be our sanctuary. Granted, it is a bit challenging to be stuck inside all day, every day, looking at those same 4 walls. However, most of us can go out for the essentials. If those walls are really that bad, get a can of paint (if finances allow) and paint those walls (since you are home anyway!). Make lemonade from lemons. “Spring clean.” Move some furniture around. Clean the closets. Complete that project you always wanted to complete. My heart it is full as I write this! My desire if for you each of you to discover your joy! Inner peace, inner joy is what give you the strength, the focus, the perseverance to power through difficult seasons. I am often encouraged by the lives of so many men and women in the Bible. Men and women who persevered through difficult dark times. Men and women who lost everything only to have everything restored in the end. Job is such an encouraging example. Job was a servant of God, a faithful servant. The devil thought he could cause Job to turn from God. God told the devil he could take everything from Job but his life. The devil did just that, but Job never turned his back on God. Job remained a servant of God. This story demonstrates that as people, we are not immune to suffering. The challenge is what we do, say, or think during times of suffering, that determines our destiny. I always say seek prayer! I know that may not be everyone’s “to do” solution but, I am a witness, it works! Also, find some joy! What is it in your life that resides within you? What is it that gives you peace? What soothes your soul?
We are engrossed in so much outer turmoil that it can cause depression, fear, anxiety, and despair. However, amid such negativity, if we can find a place of peace that lies within, reflect on what we do have, we will find joy. We must fight for our joy because the perils of the world will steal it if we do not. I often think of those who are physically imprisoned yet appear to be content. Not content in their physical status but content within. They exude some sort of inner peace. Find your inner peace, find your inner joy.
The greatest conversation you will ever have is the one that takes place in between your ears. What are you speaking to yourself? What is your I am? What generates your inner joy? During times of external isolation, it is the inner peace and joy that sustains us. The inner peace and joy that carries us through the difficult or dark days. The inner peace and joy that allows us to break through the clouds of life and see the sunshine on our face again. Seek that which brings you joy and embrace the joyful journey! Be joyful!
Just my opinion, as is all of this. I hope it helps somebody. Until next time…embrace the journey.