Where Did Our Joy Go?

I set out this morning to find my joy.  Somewhere, along the way, I seem to have lost it.  Nothing’s bad.  I just don’t feel much joy these days.  Not in the places I normally do like relationships and work and my cute little dog.  Not even in the places I sometimes do like exciting upcoming trips.  Just couldn’t seem to find it.

So, I set out to.  I stayed home from church.  Cried a little and then decided it was time.  If I’m not finding it in the places I normally go, it’s time I really looked for it…looked in the only place I really trust.  I wanted to know what my Bible said about joy.  Not just “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” and all of the other verses I’ve read a million times (although just that could have been a hint to me.)  I wanted to do a study on joy.  And, as I looked in verse after verse, I realized they all said the same thing.  And didn’t say the same thing.  The resounding answer is that our joy is in Christ.  Period.  It never said, “You will find joy in your closest relationships.  Your favorite things.  It did not say we find our joy in anything—ANYTHING—apart from Christ.  But oh, how desperately I try.

And then I thought about you. 

Where did our joy go?

In our Intentional Parenting seminar, we talk about the acronym that is used in Alcoholics Anonymous:  HALT.  It’s an encouragement to never let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  That’s when you—that’s when we get into trouble.

As a parent, you live there.

Hungry…how do you have time to eat when you’re running this child to soccer practice and that child to ballet and trying to buy groceries and pay bills in the in between time.

Angry…at your teenager who just rolled his eyes at you this morning for the 67th time this week.

Lonely…your husband is out of town again.  Your wife is in town but you can’t seem to find her to connect in the midst of her busyness.  Or, your spouse simply isn’t here anymore and you’re living out another day as a single parent.

Tired…examples not needed.  When was the last time you felt really, genuinely rested?

Where did your joy go?  You’re not even sure what that word means anymore.

Any time we speak to parents, we talk about the need for them to find themselves outside of their parenting.  If your child is older than a minute, you know exactly what we mean.  They are often your greatest source of joy…and of sorrow.  You’re delighted as you watch them take their first steps…learn to ride their bike…make a new friend…paint a beautiful picture…discover who they are.  But, then they start to discover who they are—apart from you.  It happens in adolescence, but also a million moments along the way.  Parenting is riddled with joy but also with sadness.  Sadness as you watch them struggle to find their way, as they’re hurt friends, and in those daily moments where time stands still and you’re reminded yet again that in “just a few short years…”

Where did your joy go?  We would gently and urgently encourage you to find it again.  For you.  For them.  What brings you joy that doesn’t fluctuate with the ups and downs of your daily life?  The ups and downs of their hormones?  Or even with just the passage of time?  Where have you found your joy before? 

On the road to becoming a licensed counselor, my supervisor told me in every session how important it was to take care of myself—in other words, to do things that refill me since I was pouring so much out on a daily basis.  You’re doing that on an hourly basis.  What refills you?  Seek that—find that—and know that, as your life- your heart is refilled, you’ll have much more to offer those little harbingers of joy and sorrow running barefoot around your house.

“Why is everyone hungry for more? ‘More, more,’ they say.  ‘More, more.’  I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees.”     Psalm 4:6-7, The Message

“We’re depending on God; he’s everything we need.  What’s more, our hearts brim with joy since we’ve taken for our own his holy name.  Love us, God, with all you’ve got—that’s what we’re depending on.”  Psalm 33:20, The Message

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.  We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea-storm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.  Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.  River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city, this sacred haunt of the Most High.  God lives here, the streets are safe, God at your service from crack of dawn.”  Psalm 46, The Message

We’d love to hear what brings you joy…