Sometimes, I get really flipping fed up when people talk about joy.
Over the last few years, especially when the sad black dog has reared its ugly head in my life, I have found it so hard to sit in church or talk with Christian friends and hear what they have to say about God’s joy and how much He wants to give me His joy. I’ve even done it myself; I’ve spoken words of joy over someone else or prayed for joy for someone, or whatever else. And sometimes, God’s joy is just something so abstract and, if I’m totally honest, completely unattainable to me that I have come to the conclusion many a time that maybe the idea of joy is just a bit pointless and pants.
A happy start isn’t it?
What I want to say this evening comes from a place of joy – ironically. But, I want to start (and crazy heresy-seekers come at me #theologyforever) by saying that for me, joy isn’t always – in fact, joy is rarely – happiness. Sometimes, quite simply, joy is just a determined trust in God. That’s it – trust. For me, from the trust, comes the joy. Does that make sense?
This whole series, for those of you who haven’t been following it (shame on you… kidding. Kind of), the Godly Hearts Column aims to talk about and delve into the issues surrounding relationships from singleness, celibacy, dating and hopefully marriage – all with the sole focus of trying to keep God in it all somehow. For those of you who also don’t know (although I’m sure the whole world knows of my infamous Bridget-Jonesness), I am a single Christian lady who challenges all of the loveliness that sometimes comes with that. It has been so hard sometimes to try and find happiness, comfort and completeness in a culture of church where sometimes, I’m sad to say, the expectation has been that without a boyfriend I cannot be whole and I cannot be complete. I’m sad to say it, because for the most part this is generally what the message outside the church has also been – and for a community of people claiming to be living for God rather than the world, why is it that we hold onto this ideal?
That, however, is another blog post entirely.
Anyway. The way I’m trying to connect this whole joy-trust issue with relationships is simply to say that, as a single Christian lady who is thinking about hopefully graduating next year and wondering what life looks like after uni, and as a single Christian lady who, when scrolling down her Facebook feed sees couple after couple getting engaged or posting wedding photos, it’s no wonder that the worries and the panic begin to settle in. This year at uni has been one of challenges and total beauty, too. Yet, as the real world becomes just that – real – to me, it seems like more issues, heartbreaks and sadness crops into view as I begin to see just how broken and unhappy the world can be. In all of this, it is so easy for me as someone who suffers from depression to take on the sadness of others around me, and to actively share in their sadness in a way that most friends probably wouldn’t, on the level that sometimes, it feels like I’m a sadness sponge soaking it all up. Thankfully, the habit is breaking, and I’m learning to be more of a sadness spoon instead (no idea why I’m a spoon, but I needed something that wasn’t actively soaking anything up, HA). The sadness still remains for me and those around me, so what do we do with this? How do we respond?
The world around me tells me to look to my boyfriend for emotional support. Well, world, he isn’t there unfortunately. Mr Annie is currently psyching himself up for the adventure he’s going to have with me (…or something like that, at least) so there’s no use looking there for help. It seems like I’m also told that with his emotional support and stability for me, there my joy will also be. I’ll be happy when he tells me it’ll be alright. I’ll be happy when he tells me that he can share in my sadness with me. I’ll be happy when he’s there. Don’t get me wrong, I know many couples and I am no stranger to the idea that these kinds of reassurances and comforts come from relationships – I’d be silly to think otherwise. My point, though, is that this shouldn’t necessarily be the main thing we latch onto. Does that make sense?
That beautiful verse up top tells me that the joy of the Lord is my strength. I said earlier that my experiences have told me that joy isn’t necessarily always happiness, but more of a solid trust. I am no perfect lady but I’ve found I trust God with an awful lot more than I used to – and because of that, I can feel strong and brave and happy because I know that He has got me. Sometimes, as single Christians especially, we get down in the mouth that all we have is God and the people around us and we don’t have a ring on our finger yet.
EXCUSE ME, but what on earth makes that sentence okay for even a second? The people around you, like your friends and your family, are so precious and so important. These are the people that, despite their weaknesses and flaws, are the ones who are supposed to help you to learn to love yourself, to buy you ice cream when it’s been a bad day, to text you with hilarious jokes and observations from wherever they’re at. These are the people that loved you first, and in many cases, get you ready for what is to come with your own Adam or Eve. And as for good old God, well, what do I need to say?
2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that Jesus said, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. This means that Jesus’ beautiful act of sacrifice on the cross all those years ago, whether you believe it or not, has made it so easy for Jesus to be all the strength, and all the joy that you will ever need. It’s true, sometimes Jesus provides joy for us through other people – through friends, family and, dare I say it, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but the whole point is that Jesus has been doing this the whole time, and we don’t need to wait for someone to curl up at night with so we can feel the joy, because his power is being made perfect in your weakness – in your sadness and in your grief, and joy is on the way.
You with me?
Recently (so like 2 days ago, such is the life of a student on holiday) I started watching Man Down. It’s got the somehow sexy Greg Davies in it from the Inbetweeners and it is absolutely hilarious. The essential idea behind it all is that poor old Dan has lost his girlfriend and he spends most of the time in awkward situations trying to get his girlfriend back with the help of his friends and family. The general gist is that Dan feels pretty much the same way as some of us do – that kind of oh no, what do I have left? feeling, where we seem completely oblivious to the beautiful and wonderful people around us. He’s lost his girlfriend, but his friends and his family are there – as soon as it happens – and are helping him find his way again despite how much of a tool he is.
I’ve called this post Infatuated with Joy because I don’t want to be infatuated with this falseness that so many people – including me – go for. I don’t want to encourage this idea that I need a boyfriend to be happy, or that my friends are go-between before I get married and ditch them all, or that God isn’t providing the right people for me because they aren’t tall, dark, Irish and willing to have curly-haired children with me. I don’t want my singleness to be a burden – I don’t want to be jealous or upset of what might be going on for people around me. I want to embrace the life I’m living and to embrace God’s plan for me right now, and fall in love with today rather than someday.
In my singleness, and the sadness that sometimes comes with that, I am choosing the joy of the Lord to be my strength. I am choosing to say that I trust His plan and trust His judgement. Basically, what I’ve been trying to say, is that I believe that happiness can come from anywhere, but true joy comes from God. I’ll mess it up, I’ll get it wrong, but I’m choosing not to make the best of a bad situation, but rather, live the life God has for me, in all of it’s fullness – boyfriend or otherwise.
My favourite song right now is Thunder Clatter by Wild Club (I’m nearly done, I promise), and it has the most beautifully romantic words in it and a cracking beat so it’s just fab. The best bit for me is I hear it all in the center of my heart, you’re the love of my life – the love of my life. One day, if it’s right, I’ll say that to Mr Annie and he’ll say it back to me. But until then, and even after then, I’ll be saying it to my friends, my family, and of course good old JC – because my life is full of joy. Full of joy, not because of who I am, but because of who my God is, and all that He has done for me.
Peace and blessings x
All images taken from pinterest.com