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)