This may sound surprising, but this blog is hard for me to write. You see, I’ve spent a great majority of my life chasing after happiness. Happiness for me, being an extreme extrovert and an adrenaline junkie, usually involves some activity or event. I just love to have fun! Whether it’s dinner with friends, a family gathering, or especially some kind of adventurous activity, happiness typically involves “doing” something.
I am the perfect poster child for Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 hit, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” That’s me, all right!
Actually, I just got home from a family vacation with my Mom and sisters, and it was loaded with fun. We laughed until our sides hurt as we told stories and made good-hearted fun of each other. That’s what families do, at least my family does. We were visiting relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time; and we played cards, ate way too much, looked at old family pictures, reminisced about old times, and did lots of fun activities.
It was happiness overload!
But that kind of happiness is fleeting. It doesn’t last long, and it is totally dependent on circumstances outside ourselves that we can’t always control and a lifestyle that isn’t sustainable.
Joy, true inner joy, for me has been much more elusive. You see, I used to base it on my external circumstances, which is where happiness is found, and also on my feelings, which can’t always be trusted. But spiritually speaking, happiness and joy often live worlds apart.
Joy is totally unrelated to what’s happening around us but rather is based on what’s going on inside us, how connected we are to our Heavenly Father, how deeply we feel His love.
So how do we honestly find joy when the circumstances we are facing are hard and we feel like we can barely keep our heads above water?
Hmmm, kind of like the last two years, at least for me. Feeling overwhelmed was a very real feeling at times.
Yet I can say with complete honesty, I have known more joy these last two years than ever before in my life.
God’s Word shares how that is possible:
“This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)
Read that carefully, my friend. It says joy comes from the Lord, not from us.
It’s that fruit we’ve been talking about.
As I have been walking through external circumstances that are hard and outside of my control, I have been leaning into Jesus more and more. He has truly become my best friend. I have devoured His Word in fresh new ways, and I’ve listened to sermons and worship more than ever before. I’ve written beautiful, heartfelt worship songs when my heart wasn’t feeling happy at all.
And joy has naturally risen up inside me. A joy that I never dreamed I could feel in good times, let alone during seasons of struggle. It’s because it’s from God, from His strength, and not something I try to conjure up on my own. And this kind of joy is way more secure than anything the world has to offer.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
His presence is where we find lasting, pure joy.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love to have fun and probably always will. That’s simply how I’m wired.
But joy has been a sweet fruit that has appeared through God’s hand working deep inside my restless spirit. I can say with complete honesty that I love this newfound joy, and I'm even grateful for the struggles it took to get me here.
For a “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” girl like me, that’s truly a miracle!
Love and hugs,