Joy is easy from the mountain’s vista, from the ocean’s rugged shore, midst the tall trees of a virgin forest or watching silently the beauty of a Northern Aurora Light Show; and most surely while spellbound by a perfect sunset which calms the soul… but joy is elusive and in but a moment, in the twinkling of the eye, that joy can pass and life is changed. The poor lone seeker whose life is awash in a valley’s barren landscape may be too weak to see, too look up and notice as that which may perhaps lift him up, is passing him by. From the strong comes the opportunity to help the weak, from the bold a possibility to embolden the shy, from those already rich in joy comes the occasion to share, to clothe, feed and nurture those whose joy has been smothered by chance or misadventure.
Truly seeing the burden of others “must” pain our souls, this is a given. But, to apply the salve of healing, as we share our joy with others, can assist those burdened in life, to acquire strength from those who do offer themselves, and may aid them in seeing once again joys that have become clouded by life’s misfortune.
I remember some years ago meeting a wonderful example of strength from which I gained a deeper knowledge of life. That meeting did not guarantee a steadfast and sure cure for a heavy heart, but certainly went a long way toward being an anchor for my outlook on life. I am able to claim that moment, when I can see beyond the clouds of despair and at times when I am reminded that life is not always fair… it is fraught with pitfalls, not always of our own design. What we do in those moments of trial will often gauge the outcome and where we look for answers can surely affects the ability to find joy in the worst of moments. This meeting was in a nursing home. It was nothing spectacular or miraculous. It was during a Bible Study with seniors and I had asked a simple question about skill and endurance. A lady, advanced in years, smiled and gave a simple answer to my question. She stated that she was able to jump the distance between two lines on the floor (about 6 feet apart) with no problem. After many a chuckle from others, I asked how and why she felt that way, as she was a double amputee and sitting in a wheelchair. She said with all calmness and sincerity, “I am jumping that distance in my mind just like I could when I was 16 years old!” Her misfortune in life did not limit her joy in living.
Today is a good day. Not all my days are like that. I have a lot on my plate as I deal with personal struggles of health and circumstance, but I see from the edge of life, the turmoil of others and pray for their healing and relief from their pain. A friend and I were talking the other day about how we often allow the “stuff” of life to rob us of our joy. I am glad that as a Christian I have another answer to my plight… that is my faith. I write from the background of that faith, and I am not ashamed of where I stand or my desire to accept that which seems too large for empirical truth in the non-Christian world. I am reminded of what a lecturer, writer and theologian Dr. Eugene H. Peterson once said to me following a conference, “Life is a matter of decisions and those in your life will make decisions about what they choose to believe… it is not rocket science… we choose to believe or not to believe, it is that simple.” (I paraphrased). The key is freedom to make that choice and allowing love to be the foundation on which those decisions can be made.
Today may be a tough day for you as you read and reflect on life. For some there may seem to be little sense in struggling some days. Perhaps, there may be someone you know who has had their joy robbed by harsher realities of life that have come to overwhelm, and now despair reigns instead of joy. Not all of life is laughter as we also know that not all of life is tears. Today there may be decisions to be made about our lives or life for others. We can construct walls of protection or walls of privacy, blocking out the cries of others. On the other hand we can open our lives to their pain and as we feel its reality and do something to disarm or arrest whatever brings desolation and heavy hearts to those around us. It may be a note of encouragement, a smile and warm greeting, but even more it may be a hand reaching out in love and fellowship over coffee, a meal or a long walk down memory lane. It may be a simple sharing of faith or a quote aptly shared… we never know. But this is living near the edge. It can be scary, it is surely demanding, but it can be so uplifting.
Joy washes us with a cleansing that little else in life can attain. It can melt the dinge of life, reset enthusiasm to encourage us to overcome and go on, and it has a healing quality that is unmatched. To see beyond the moment into the clarity of hope is uplifting to say the least. To live there is almost unimaginable, yet to grasp it is almost a primary goal for most who struggle. It can not be forced, yet it can be shared. It comes neither in a bottle, through a prescription, nor can we buy it online through sales and distribution sites. Joy is found by looking. That is the key. The simplest things of life can lend us untold amounts of joy if we are able to see them clearly and plainly. It may be a book read, a small child's laughter or even a cartoon shared. To clear our minds of the traffic of stress, we must stop and rest. Yet, there is truth in the old adage that says, "Should you stop to think... don't forget to start again!" The key here may be in where you start from. Seeking joy takes us on a different path than when we stopped to rest. I seek to rest in my faith.
Can you, or do you, pray? Praying is the foundation on which your faith will grow and the garden in which the practical applications of life are shared, where empathy grows hands and feet with which to go forth, that we might touch the lives of others. May we all do our part to help clothe our fellow strugglers with joy through life in times of tribulation and trial. You may need to be clothed one day yourself. Be kind, as someone reminded us the other day…. We never know what trials those we meet are facing. May the Lord richly bless your day and may you find some unexpected joy when, and from wherever it should come, wrapped in the knowledge that though this gift is sometimes fleeting, it is yours for this precious moment.