Year End Reflections

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This time last year, I was running as fast as possible from 2015 and wishing people an abundance of this on my Instagram page.  To state the obvious, this is the bubbly, doggedly optimistic little character from  Disney Pixar’s Inside Out.  Now… I don’t know about any of you, but of the top ten words or phrases I would use to describe this current year, “joy” or “joyful” would not be on the list.  My 2016 was rough.

The funny thing is I didn’t know what joy was.  I’ve been happy, smitten, gleeful, giddy, but I had no clue what joy really was.  A quick online search defines joy as (n) a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  Yeah, I’ve felt that before but why does it seem so elusive?  Happiness is defined as (n) a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.  The two seem interchangeable and even yet another search of the difference between the two ranges from “You’re splitting hairs” to overindulgent contemplation.  To me, it felt like happiness seemed to be a temporary thing.  Joy seemed like something more permanent, ethereal even.  Why was that?

And then I saw how it:  the pursuit of happiness.  Aha!  What was I pursuing?  What was my idea of happiness?  Turns out whatever it was (I’ll keep that between me and the Lord) was a feeble attempt to fill the void.  That’s why I always had that “that shoe is going to drop any minute now” feeling that kept me from feeling completely and truly happy.  It wasn’t doing the job.  It was too dependent on changeable, unstable factors.  In order for me to have joy – this mysterious thing I kept reading about in the bible, I was going to have to pursue something, someone different.  And so, I did.

It was a long hard road.  And when you take off on these journeys, they never look like the map in your head.  When you start pursuing and following the Lord, it’s never a straight line; it’s never the route you would take.  First, it usually starts with you getting real and raw about who you are.  Then, there’s a remodeling process until you look like who He thinks you are – life changing.  I really recommend it.  Ask Him.  It’ll blow your mind.  Along the way, there are valleys, tests, fiery furnaces – it ain’t for the faint of heart… but don’t you kind of know that going into it?  And after awhile, you start looking like this:

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Okay… that was for comic relief, but people who have traveled this road know that face and that feeling.  And then one day, when you’re not struggling so much, you’ve learned to yield and roll with it, to trust him… this happens:

You wake up and realize you have joy.  And what is joy?  Joy, to me, is knowing that no matter how much of a bummer your day might be, you can still be happy.  For me, that is simply saying, “Jesus, I’m weak and the only way I’m going to get through this moment is with you and right now, I could really use…”  And, he (stable, faithful and unchanging), so awesomely and steadfastly helps me through – every single time.  And, that’s really all that is.  It’s saying, “Thank you God for another day.  I want to be and am determined to be happy or at least, hold my peace today.  And I can do that with Your help.”  Well, that’s part of it (knowing how much He loves me leaves me downright elated) and that’s what works for me anyway.

So, as I am now newly into 2017, I realized I finished strong.  I have joy (and faith and hope) and I am taking her into the new year with me.

And with that, dear reader, I leave you with the following:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Happy New Year!

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