What makes you happy?
For me, it’s lots of little things. Like the way the sun streams gracefully through the window in the spring. And how bees knock up against your window and then fly away again, reminding you summer is on the way. And the taste of soft-serve ice cream from an ice cream truck somewhere along the British coastline. It’s how my puppy’s face looks all smushed up when he wakes up from a nap. It’s how my cousins and I put frozen yoghurt on our noses in the summer, just because. It’s walking into a coffee shop and smelling the coffee beans. It’s eating lunch every day with my friends and all their different smiles and laughs.
But sometimes, when these things are stripped away, I no longer feel happy.
Like when a friend or a family member leaves. Or when I have to say a goodbye I’ve been dreading. Or when I hear disappointing news. These things hit me in the very centre, and suddenly, I don’t feel so happy anymore.
But before too long, the sun will come streaming through the window again, casting pretty shadows on the counter and reminding me that there are, in fact, still things to be happy for.
And that, my sweet friend, is just what happiness is. It’s ever-changing; not at all constant. Some mornings, you’ll wake up overflowing with it, but other mornings, you’ll have to remind yourself to look for it in the small things. And other mornings still, it might not even be there at all.
And although those dark and difficult mornings where we roll out of bed, completely lacking any happiness, may get us down, there is still hope. There is still hope because we can hold on to joy.
Psalm 16:11 says, ‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ (NIV) I love this… that in the presence of the Lord there is a fullness of joy- a joy that comes not from placing our happiness in earthly things but from being with the Lord.
Even when we feel void of happiness and even when things aren’t going our way, we can still feel joyful. This joy we can feel- it might not stop us feeling sad, but it can stop us from feeling despaired because we have this fullness of joy when we are in the presence of the Lord.
And what’s even better is that this fullness of joy gives us strength! Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘[…]Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.’ (NIV)
With this knowledge, we can be joyful even when things are difficult. We can dance our way through trials and sing in the middle of the storm. Our hearts can be full of joy even when we stumble and fall. We can lift our hand and praise God in the valley because His joy gives us strength.
This doesn’t mean that difficult times won’t still be difficult. Because they will be. They will ask more of us than we could imagine, they will test us in ways we never expected and they may hurt us like never before. It might be a struggle to get out of bed in the mornings or to check things off your to-do list, or to smile when someone asks you a question. But, amidst the struggle, there is joy. A joy that comes from being in the presence of the Lord. And there is a strength to be found too. A strength that comes from this fullness of joy.
So let the joy of the Lord be your strength, sweet friend. Look to the Lord and bask in His glorious presence, and be filled with joy. The joy of the Lord.