1 Thessalonians 5:16 "Be joyful always". How does this verse compare to your understanding of joy? What do you think "always" means in this verse?I also read that same day that "Joy is the deep-rooted confidence that God is in control." To answer the questions above... when God is in control and you truly and deeply have confidence in it, it means that you've given up your "right" to control and have submitted to Him. So ALWAYS means that we need to always be giving God the control in our lives and ALWAYS being joyful that every good thing in life is God's gift to us.
I've been thinking about "joy" for the last few days ever since those questions were posed to me. What is joy? If someone were to ask me to define joy, I'd probably say... happiness to the hundredth power. Extreme happiness. Bursting, beaming happiness. Uncontainable. And if someone were to ask me what brings me joy, I'd really have to sit and think about what makes me feel that way.
Still pondering. Maybe the dictionary will help. Here's what Merriam-Webster says about joy:
1 a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaietyDelight! That's a good one. What brings me delight?
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss
3 : a source or cause of delight
I feel like there are different levels of joy and delight. I delight in finding/seeing pretty/beautiful things. I find delight in miniature versions of everyday objects (like a mini cast iron skillet, a pediatric stethescope, a pediatric blood pressure cuff). Although I'm excited when I see these things... the elation I feel is momentary and goes away after the object moves out of my eyeline.
Lately, I've been catching up with a few friends. More than normal, but not all the people I'd like to. My heart smiles when I hear about the lovely things going on in their lives. So many of my friends are doing so well... in their careers, with relationships... with love. My heart is happy when I hear that they've found out their manuscript was accepted for publication, when they've found that perfect someone to live the rest of their lives with, when I hear about their new jobs, their new paychecks... their little life victories and triumphs. I'm even more happy when I hear that they give praise back to God for blessing them, for empowering them, for giving them those blessings.
I actually find this heart-smiling rather... intriguing because it is a little bit foreign to me. Haha. One would think that one would naturally be happy for your friends, but in the past, I've always been half happy for them, half jealous that I didn't also have it. Hey, it's an ugly truth, but it is the truth. There always used to be a twinge of jealousy whenever I would hear about someone else's victory. That's the feeling that I'm used to feeling when I hear about the good things that happened to people. But yesterday, I realized... I felt true and genuine delight in other people's happiness. I felt no jealousy. Unbelievable to me, actually. Is this what it feels like to be content with my life and my circumstances? I am so at peace with my life that I don't want what other people have? Isn't that so strange? Maybe you call it "being a good person" and you're apalled that I would even think that way, but to me, I think it's a miracle that God did in my heart.
That's not to say that I don't have goals or that I want everything to stay the way it is right now. I'm still looking forward to being employed, but I am not down about being unemployed. I look forward to the future, even though I'm widowed and might spend the rest of my life alone. There is so much good in my life... so many good people... so much to appreciate. I'm happy.
I was driving home yesterday night and I was thinking about how happy I was. I decided to just talk to Anderson (outloud) and tell him that I'm happy. So I did. And I cried. It's kind of dangerous for me to "talk" to Anderson while driving at night. My vision got blurry and I'm glad I made it home. I told him what I did that day. I told him that I was happy. He always said that he wanted me to be happy and he was always happy to hear when I was. He always told me that I was his happy. He was also mine. I told him that I missed him so so much and that even though I was happy, it will never be the same as when I could share my happiness with him at the end of the day. There will always be a little bit missing, but the glass is very nearly completely full and I will focus on what's in the glass and not what's missing.
So what's in my glass? Let me spend some time to remember...
- Love - I, personally, have experienced an outpouring of love from family, from friends, from strangers... from friends of friends. People I have never met have been sending me their condolences, their well wishes, their encouragements... anything and everything that they feel may help me deal with my grief. I believe that God has given so many of you so much sympathy and empathy to come alongside me and hold me up. You have shown me so much love... love that I do not deserve... love that I did not show you first... love that I did nothing to earn.
- Prayer - Anderson's prayer requests started out as an email sent to my family back at home and a few people who were close to me. When it became clear that many more people wanted to rally behind us and pray specifically for our needs, the google group started getting bigger and bigger. People started forwarding our prayer request emails far and wide. I sent updates and prayer requests and I shared stories about my thoughts, the lessons I learned, the joy and heartache I experienced. Through praying for Anderson, I learned how to submit myself to God's sovereignty in every single detail of our lives. Anything and everything got prayed for. You all prayed for us with such dedication, such passion, such urgency, with so much heart. It is so beautiful.
- Unity within the body of Christ. I had never seen such a wondrous or glorious display of unity as I experienced at our wedding back in January. So many people came together for one purpose and it was nothing short of miraculous what was accomplished in those few days. Our wedding was the best gift that our church, our family, and our friends could have given us. We were and I still am SO touched by the events of that day.
- A beautiful and fulfilling marriage. My husband. He wasn't a perfect human being by any means, but he was my perfect husband. He was everything I ever wanted and so much more. He was better than what I could have dreamed up as a grown woman... better than any lists I made about my "perfect guy" as a teenage girl. I married the best man I ever knew and I'm a better person for it. He was the best gift God ever gave me. THE best. I'm not one to give anything a 10 unless they or it is truly exceptional. Anderson is an 11 in my book. You can disagree but I will shut you down... always and forever. This one is non-negotiable.
- A future and a hope. I'm not all caught up in planning my future anymore. I do have some vague plans for what I'm doing the next few months, but I'm pretty willing to alter and adjust them as God leads me to. I do have backup plans and options stored up in my head too. For now, I'm going back to school to finish up my masters in nursing degree. I'm also going to be looking for a nursing job. I'm going to work on building and rebuilding new and old relationships and friendships. I'm not worried. A friend today reminded me that our 10-year high school reunion is coming up (omg, where did the time go?). The quote I put in the yearbook my senior year (9 years ago!!!) was: "All of life comes down to just one thing: that's to know the Lord Jesus and to make Him known." Or something like that. To know Him and make Him known. That's the heart of it. The rest (career, etc.) is just... a means to make it happen. And I have a hope that I will see Anderson again. Hope that I'll have eternal life. Life in heaven that's way better than the best EVER here on earth. I'm absolutely sure of it.
Tifferson was pretty darn awesome if I say so myself :P, but in the end, we're just human, same as you. All the good, all the awesomeness... all the warmth and love that still amazes even me... that's you seeing God through our lives. It's not unique to us either. I see it all around me. Don't you?