When Joy Runs Out and I'm Going Under

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. I know I’ve said it before. There is a difference between joy and happiness. As a Christian, the argument would go something like this, “Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. Joy comes from a relationship with Jesus; therefore, it can be present regardless of whether or not your current circumstances are pleasant.”

I don’t think I realized just how crazy that must sound to unbelievers. I will just admit it. This weekend, it sounded pretty crazy to me.

As a writer (BA in Print Journalism and English with an option in writing), words are very important to me. So, when I start questioning what someone says or something I read, the first thing I often do is look up the definitions. When I looked up the definitions of joy and happiness, they are almost identical.  That just added fuel to my cynical fires.

For the past eleven months I have continued to remind myself that I can be joyful even in my sorrow. Some days I have done a better job than others. But this weekend, it caught up with me.  Over the past few days, I have found myself questioning so many things. In the conversation in my head, I have asked God so many “Whys.”

  • Why, God, didn’t you heal Brandon when I prayed for him all his life? Were you punishing me for something I did or didn’t do?

  • Why, God, does Your word tell us to ask and we will receive? I asked again and again, and You said, “No.”

  • Why, God, do You say that with the faith of a mustard seed we can move mountains? I know that You can bring Brandon back to life, and yet, you won’t.

  • Why, God, when I have tried to live a Godly life since I was five-years-old, do you deny me my son when so many others who live Godless lives still get to enjoy theirs?

  • Why, God, are there so many other Godly mothers—women I know who love You—struggling with their children as well?

  • Why, God? Why? Are You there? Do You really care, or is this all some cosmic joke?

Given this kind of mental and spiritual battle, I currently do not feel very happy or joyful. And yet, here I am, a Christian writer, teacher, and speaker, trying to model a Godly life and encourage others to grow in theirs. Sometimes, I feel like such a hypocrite.

In the immediate aftermath of Brandon’s death, I was keenly aware that this was going to be a battle. I knew instantly that I would be faced with a choice. This tragedy could push me upward into the arms of Jesus, or I could drown in my grief. Some days the waves are bigger than other days. Some days the current is stronger. Some days I am just a little more tired of fighting.   

I don’t feel happy right now. I don’t even feel joyful. Honestly, I can’t even say that I feel at peace. I am as human as the next person, and my sinful human nature and my unreliable emotions are wreaking more than a little havoc on me at present.

But this is why it is so important that I rely on what I know and not what I feel. When, on days like this, when the battle is too fierce, when the grief is too heavy, when I don’t feel like being the Christ-like example I am supposed to be, thank God that He is still here, that He still loves me and forgives me, that He is my Life-Savior. I am not dependent upon my own strength. I am relying on His.

My faith may not look very pretty right now. There may be a lot of thrashing and a good amount of tears. I may lose some momentum, but I am still trusting not in what I feel but in God’s Word that is real. Tonight, I am believing what He says. I am determining not to let Satan get the victory. For “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)