Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where is that Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart?


–noun 1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

We who follow Christ are called upon to be joyful.... always.
1 Thessalonians 5:16.

Hmmmm. This command has been a bit difficult for me lately.

I've been witness to a dozen recent heartbreaks.

Or heartDEVASTATIONS could be more like it.

*Colleen leaves behind 3 sweet girls and an adoring husband.

The big bully of cancer wins again.
Really, God? JOY?

*A best friend suffers daily from the decisions of her ex.
The cross is so heavy for her.
God, where are you?

*A local family, rock-solid in their faith, perish in a small plane crash in the middle of a storied park.
Mom, Dad, Older Sister, Younger Sister. Leaving behind two older siblings. My heart is so heavy. Joy is weak.

*Family D.,
plitting up. Separating. Divorcing. Moving far apart.
Little hearts are crushed.

Family M., splitting up. Separating. Divorcing. Moving far apart.
Little hearts are crushed.

Family H.,
plitting up. Separating. Divorcing. Moving far apart.
Little hearts are crushed.

Family O.,
plitting up. Separating. Divorcing. Moving far apart.
Little hearts are crushed.

Personal friends, each one of these.
My heart is hushed.

*10 year camp counselor of my beloved Kanakuk is arrested on charges of being a sex predator.
There are no words.

*And then, a local shining star of a family, precious in every way, lose their son in a terrible accident. Mom is driving, tire blows out, car flips 4 times. 8 year old Zachary is gone.

Like that.

Poof. The flame in my heart that is supposed to be joy is extinguished.
All that is left is some lingering smoke and a rancid smell that makes me want to retch.

How God, can you expect JOY from your children at such a time as this.

Be joyful always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16. It stings my ears.

But then comes a letter from a dad to a son. A son who is no longer alive on this earth.
A dad whose guts feel like they are strung out on the sidewalk, all bloody and grotesque.
A dad whose tears can't come hard enough or fast enough.

His son is gone.

This dad's letter will be the last words of this post, because I find it particularly astounding in the face of such pain.

The letter to Zachary (along with discussion on this topic at our mini-church last week) helped me open my mind to a thought.... .

....the thought that JOY is not ALWAYS a feeling. It can be and often is, but doesn't have to be and many times is not at all.

Much like LOVE isn't always a feeling. If you have a 2 year old, you know that even when the little darlin' marks your new couch up with your black sharpie and you want to strangle her...

you still LOVE her.

You are not feeling the love, but the love hasn't shifted a minutia.

Similarly, it occurred to me that joy is not necessarily a feeling.

The Christian can have joy even when he doesn't feel joy.

I think that it's actually called faith -

the absolute, unwavering assurance that God loves his children, he made us from dust, is with us moment in and moment out, has a plan for our lives on this earth and also has an everlasting future prepared for us in heaven.

That kind of JOY can be my strength. Phil. 4:13

I close by asking this question:
Can you see joy in the letter below? (used with permission from Christina, Zachary's mom)

Dear Zachary Austin,

Your mom, Hannah and I miss you dearly, but we know that you have been especially called to your mission field. While it is extremely painful for us to let you go, we know that the mission that has been chosen has a higher purpose that is good beyond all measure, but is hard for us to comprehend right now.

We tend to think your mission started last Monday, it actually started 8 years ago in March. From the first day, you began to teach us how to live and to be better than who we are. You shared that knowledge not only with us, but everybody you interacted with. I still remember praying with you at night before you went to bed that you would be a light to those around you and that others would know Christ through your actions and words. That prayer was continually answered. You always rose to the challenge of that prayer.

You continually amazed us in the number of people you touched through your easy way of making friends, your infectious laugh and ability to make others laugh, and your beautiful smile that could light up a room and a life. I would walk down the halls at church or at school, and people would pass by, young and old alike, saying “Hi Zach”. I would ask you who that was and you would tell me. It seemed to me that everybody knew you and that you knew everybody. You had a competitive spirit on the playground or playing field, but you also had a compassionate heart in the classroom. It didn’t matter whether it was someone who was athletically gifted or someone who had special needs, you simply treated them as a friend because they were your friend. I now see the reason for that. God had a plan for you from the first day we laid eyes on you.

As you grew, we began to see a boy that loved being outside and loved playing his sports. While you have always been a Momma’s boy, you were growing into Daddy’s boy. You loved to snuggle up with your Mommy at night, but you liked to throw the baseball or football with Daddy after work. Physical things became personal challenges to you. I can still remember trying to teach you how to ride a bike. I was never quite able to show you what it took to stay up on the two wheels so we put the bike away for a week. I came home one day and saw you riding the bike in the driveway and street while your Mommy was watching. I asked Mommy what she did to show you how to ride. She simply said she took you to a friend’s house where you saw a friend riding his bike. You told yourself, that if your friend could ride his bike, you could ride your bike too and you got up on your bike and rode it. You didn’t need your Daddy to teach you, you simply needed a friend to challenge you. You asked for a Rip-Stick for your birthday and had it mastered by the end of the week. You didn’t stop riding it until you had it figured out. We went skiing for the first time together and you didn’t let a portion of the slope that was a “black” stop you. Moguls became something you wanted to master instead of avoid. Those times were special to us and all part of your mission. Those were times that we could really see the spirit of Jesus in you.

During the last year, I got the privilege of baptizing you. It is something that I will never forget and always cherish. You had no problem publicly accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior because you had privately made the decision long before.

I won’t lie. It will be hard to go on without being able to touch you, but you are always in our hearts and live on in those people you touched. You continue to have an impact on people in the few days you have been gone, but I suspect that is all part of your mission and will not change in the days to come.

Mommy and I know that we are called to do God’s work where we are in this world, but we desperately look forward to the day that we can join you on your mission and you can show us around.

Daddy, Mommy and Hannah

P.S. Give Nanna our love.

8 Wonderful Responses:

Baloney said...

I'm struggling with joy myself these days and needed to hear these words. Well said, Annie.

Kathleen said...

An amazing letter. I struggle with this same question. It is such a fallen world. I'm so thankful to know that our final destination will elicit NONE of these types of questions. We will never have to ask what joy is because we will always, always just know.

momof4kr said...

Beautiful, and real, post.

One thing that our Sunday School Teacher has been saying that has really helped me get through times like this is:
The ONLY time our FAITH grows is when we are in a position in life where only our FAITH can sustain us.

These are times such as these...

May we all be blessed with growth in our Faith, which, in the end, is really what matters most.

Margaret said...

I agree, Annie...beautiful post. And a demonstration of what it is to live our faith out through good times and bad.

Rena said...

My heart is aching so much from reading this. It's difficult finding words.

I'm glad you wrote this post, though. I'm glad you shared every single heart-wrenching story. And especially that letter.

I cannot comprehend it.

BUT . . . I'm so glad that HE can. I'm so thankful for His words that remind us that He, too, was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

YET, He was anointed with the oil of gladness above all His fellows.

He alone can strike the balance. HE alone. So in Him, I will expect to find that joy that this post speaks of. To Him, I will cling.

It reminds me so much of the poem I posted recently about being sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.


Thank you, Annie, for sharing. My heart aches in a way that screams, "oh why, oh why did you have to read that." But it rejoices in the hope that is in HIM! Knowing that He makes all the difference.

A million thanks, my friend.

Shannon said...

So hard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though Annie. It makes no sense this side of Heaven. I am so thankful in those times of deep despair that we have hope for something more. What would we do with out that and Him? Many prayers for you and those you know who are hurting.

Kelly said...

Annie you have such a way with words. These are truly heartbreaking situations! I will pray for all the families you have mentioned here.

Love the words to the new David Crowder Band song "Shadows" and they so seemed appropriate, I thought I would share them here....

Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow...

And yet will He bring
Dark to light.
And yet will He bring
Day from night.

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we're thrown and we're tossed
We remember the cost
We rest in Him
Shadow of the cross

Valerie said...

Thanks for sharing that because I would have never read that letter otherwise. And what a post, one I can relate to, but one that is such an encouragement for me, a gentle reminder that no matter our circumstances or the circumstances of those around us, our JOY is in Him. Alone.