"In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
I think I have finally learned something about the joy of the Lord. I cannot MAKE it happen. I do not enter into the fullness of His joy through effort. For years I struggled to understand the whole concept of "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) and what exactly that joy was supposed to look and feel like. The keyword here being "struggled".
I am by nature, a melancholy personality; analytical, perfectionist, the glass is half empty, etc. Joy and happiness don't always come easy to me partially because I try to wrap my brain around them rather than just experiencing them. I need to understand WHY I should be happy, and I wait for something terrible to happen that will destroy that happiness. Sad, I know. I also know that I'm not alone in that. There are a lot of people like me in that way. I believe we've been conditioned by bad things happening in our childhood or early adulthood. Just when things start looking up.....wham! A tragedy or just plain hard times come to knock us down again. Why bother with happiness or joy when it's going to be short lived anyway? Kind of like bed-making. Why expend all that energy when it's just going to be messed up again in a few hours? Okay, maybe those things aren't really even on the same plane, but there's a little correlation, right?
The funny thing is, I have always wanted to be happy. I have spent a good part of my life with happiness as my goal, and did everything I knew of to obtain it. I have never wanted the dark cloud that so easily comes my way. I battle it constantly and always have. I would catch glimmers of optimism, joy, and happiness, but it was never enough. I have and do want more. I want the joy of the Lord to be my strength and I want to bubble over with optimism and hope. I have several friends who are like that. They make you smile just by being in the same room with you. Their light is contagious. Unfortunately, I can't be with them 24/7 so when I leave their presence the light fades. I'm a Christian. I'm supposed to be joy-filled and hopeful. What kind of testimony is a black cloud? No one wants any of that. That was part of the head game I played with myself and that nasty devil loved to perpetuate it. The truth is, Christians are still human. We will always have challenges and things to overcome on this planet. No human being, Christian or not, is happy and joyful one-hundred percent of the time. It's just not humanly possible. Unless you live with a person, you're just not going to see all the down times. Most people will put on their happy faces in public and only show you the good anyway. We all want to look as though we have it all together and our lives are perfect. Even if someone's life is really, really good - it's still not perfect. I think I have finally convinced myself of that and have stopped comparing my life to others.
I'm not going to blow sunshine and tell you I've discovered a quick-fix and I am now one of those bubbly Christians I mentioned earlier, but I will tell you what I have discovered. I need to stop struggling. I need to stop trying to wrap my brain around everything God is and does (because it's not possible anyway) and simply "be" with Him. That's where the joy is and the more I am with Him, the more His joy permeates my being. For example, I have recently taken to memorizing Scripture again. I pick a verse for the week and each day I fill a journal page with that verse, sometimes saying it out loud as I write it. Guess what? I am noticing a change in my attitude! I am feeling more of His joy deep down inside. If I keep going like this, I may one day be bubbling over like I've always dreamed of. It's a process though. That's not to say it can't happen overnight. God can do anything. For me, however, I've needed the lessons that the process has provided and I'm looking forward to more because I know I will need more.
One of the lessons I have learned is that there is a lot of joy in the little things. In the middle of my day, remembering how much He loves me. Listening to Christian music while driving in my car. Noticing things like clouds, trees, flowers......His amazing creation that He created for us! I can't look at a beautiful sunset and not smile in awe. The joy is all around us as well as inside of us and the only effort necessary is to notice. That's not much effort at all, and it's certainly not struggling. How crazy is that?! We humans tend to make things so much more difficult than they need to be. I am terribly guilty of that. What a waste of energy! I think I may put a sign up on my bathroom mirror to remind me every day, "Keep it simple. Joy is easy." Amen!