Advent Joy

It’s the start to the third week of Advent, where we look at JOY. But I have to say I am just not feeling joyful. I’m not.

I anticipate and look forward to this time of year so much and yet I find myself sitting in this time of shear unjoyfulness. There’s just this immense lack of it in my heart and mind. All around me I see it, and I desperately want it, but it’s just not there. It’s as if this overwhelming grief and sadness has just enveloped life for me.

It’s jarring to even admit because I have been trying to cover it up, put on a mask and smile and be joyful when deep within I ache and want to shut off everything and every one. It’s the glimpses of a seeping depression coming through cracks in my life that I have attempted all too poorly to patch up with manufactured things, stuff that doesn’t fill those cracks.

The opposite of joy is fear, it’s the basis and the origination of sin from the very beginning. Fear of missing out, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. It compounds and mounts, leading to more of me trying to figure out or patch it up. To overcome the fear with confidence and gusto. But the more I tried in my own might I kept finding the grasp I was holding onto was slipping.

While the world looks at joy as emotion evoked by success or well-being, Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, born out through labor and toiling, by pruning and stripping back. James tell us that we are to count it all joy when we are face to face with trials. It’s hard, it’s difficult and we often feel guilty for not feeling this exuberant joy all the time when it looks as though things are great on the outside.

This morning as I struggled to face the week of Joy in Advent I pulled open His Word to Zephaniah 3. (Yes, it’s a book in the Bible, but I did have to look in my index to find it too) These words cut deep to a heart struggling in fear and searching to make joy on it’s own.

“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst, the Might One, will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We’re not to fear, to not resign ourselves to hopelessness. He is with us, the Warrior God fighting for us. He rejoices over us. He quiets our hearts with His unending love. He sings over us. Words of love, beauty, mercy, grace and JOY. He joys in us when we can’t find joy for ourselves. HE is our JOY. He is MY JOY, when fear tries to take hold and pull me under. When fear thinks it has won the battle in my mind and heart. He brings JOY to fight, songs of redemption is His battle cry, His strength in my hands for taking up the fight.

Joy may not look like a smiling, successful, fortunate turn of life. It may be the cries of the heart in battle, with God singing over us as He is with us. But JOY has come for us. To be with us. And for today, for now, we cling to a joy in Christ’s coming that brought hope, peace and love with the joy of today.

 

How A Fifth Grade Boy’s Words Still Harm.

photo(1)That’s me, in fifth grade, at honors day. The day marked the end of being in elementary school and the start of big, bad middle school. This photo is in my scrapbook from my school years, and I put it there. But this photo doesn’t hold a good memory of that day for me. In fact, it brings back a flood of emotion as I look at it. Not because of the white tights and white shoes worn in May, we’ll leave that alone for now. Or the incredibly large headband that can be seen from at least 20 feet away…because really?! 

No, the reason why this photo is hard to look at and remember that time is because as I got to the end of that stage I burst into tears and ran to the bathroom. Moments before as my name was called for academic achievement award, the boy who was sitting in front of me at the assembly made a remark to me about how I looked and that it was only fitting I would get an academic honor since I was fat and ugly. This boy wasn’t a necessarily mean boy to me in the past, we weren’t exactly friends either…but he said it with such disgust and meanness that it stuck.

Twenty years later and those words still sting.

His words, however flippant a 12 year old is in what they say, stuck. They stuck so much that they formed my self-confidence in all things (or lack thereof to be honest) for the greatest part of my life. In fact, I still struggle moment by moment with self-confidence. I question relationships, friendships, projects, writing, and even who I am in Christ because of those words.

Why do I give them meaning? Why do I allow them to have context and power in my life?

This is what I have been praying and dwelling on the last few days as I face those words head-on. As I face that 12 year old boy sitting at the table in front of me.

No one has the right to tell you that you aren’t significant. NO ONE. God breathes truth into you that you are significant to Him. You matter to Him. Why then am I allowing, choosing even, to let someone else tell me different? When I give power to others, I am essentially telling God He’s not enough for me. His truth doesn’t fit with my belief and I shrug Him off. Even as I typed that, it looked ridiculous, because I would never say that to God…but I am when I let those words put context into my life, in my actions, in my heart.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.- Zephaniah 3:17