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
I have been through a lot of challenges in my life lately. Some of which, quite frankly, have left me on my knees before the Father asking for and seeking revival and renewal. He is answering that prayer, and to watch him put the pieces of my life back together is simply amazing. And as the pieces fall into place, I am discovering a new life. I am discovering joy.
Before now, I never really got it. Church folk would always say “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10). And just like any good Lord-lovin’ churchgoer, I would recite the verse and keep it moving in my busy life, too busy to notice or even care that I had no idea what it really meant to be strengthened by God’s joy.
I mean sure, the joy of the Lord was my strength, but I had coworkers at the job who made me smile and laugh. I was happy. I had my kids who’d act like goofballs at times and say funny things that would make me smile. I was happy. I’d go out to dinner with my girlfriends from time to time, that would make me happy. I didn’t need the joy of the Lord, per se, because, you know, I was happy.
But then my life took a turn, and in one crushing blow, I found myself at 32 years old, living back with my parents, with two kids, no husband (we had separated), and staring down the barrel of divorce. Suddenly I was driving four hours per day in the car to get the kids to school, myself to work, the kids from school, and all three of us back to my parents’ house, which was an hour from their daycare. I was not happy. I cried often. I didn’t eat. My life had come to a screeching halt, and I didn’t know what to do.
So I went to therapy. Thank you, Jesus for therapy. And in one of my sessions my therapist gave me a book by Elizabeth George called “A Woman’s Walk with God: Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.” And my concept of joy changed. Not instantaneously, but it did change.
How could I smile, I’d ask myself, with the threat of divorce looming over my head. How could I smile with my kid telling me she didn’t want to go to the grandparents’ after school, that she wanted to go home and see her daddy. How could I have this joy when I felt abandoned and betrayed by the only man I had ever loved?
And then it was almost as if God just showed me who He was. Through the daily sludge of getting up each day, and falling to my knees each night, I came to understand that because I knew Jesus, because I had a real and growing relationship with Him, everything was going to be OK. I didn’t feel like everything was going to be OK at the time. But I had to know, deep down inside, that I was going to be OK. I had to know that I could make it through each day, putting one foot in front of the other, because Jesus was with me.
I knew the Lord and He gave me peace in my mind. I knew the Lord, and He gave me strength to get in bed at night, in a room that wasn’t mine, in a house that wasn’t home. I knew the Lord, and He gave me the ability to think straight, to function, even when my life had fallen apart all around me. I knew the Lord and He gave me joy.
It wasn’t a running, happy, leaping, hysterical laughing joy. Yeah, no. My household had just been torn in two. It wasn’t that. Things were bad. But it was a joy that kept me calm. I was able to have lunch and laugh and crack jokes with my coworkers. I was able to counsel my clients on their cases and make court appearances without crying or shrieking or falling to the floor on my knees and ripping my tights. I was able to take my kids to the playground by myself, where I would see other two-parent families playing happily with their kids, and not go to pieces. I was able to keep pumping and provide nourishment for my infant son. I was able to live because the Lord kept me. He gave me joy.
The Lord helped me embrace his peace. He helped me decide that despite the tragedy that I was experiencing, I would embrace his peace and strength. I found the Lord’s joy to be the ability to function normally when things were far from normal. And that lesson, that joy, has been one of the greatest gifts. Thanks, Jesus.
And for those of you wondering, no, my husband and I did not divorce. We are back together and better than we’ve ever been. The Lord’s doing, naturally. (And also supernaturally). Perhaps more on that at another time. The journey to reconciliation was just as important as getting there. And in that journey, I found the Lord. I found joy.