Look for your joy

Have you ever had something stolen from you that you didn’t know was missing?

Our home seemed undisturbed when returned from vacation in late June a few years ago. A week later, however, when I went to our back shed, something didn’t seem right. The leaf blower and lawnmower were missing. Then I realized that my extension cords weren’t in the right place. Finally, seeing the empty spot where my Trek mountain bike used to be, it dawned on me: We had been robbed.

That’s the way we lose our joy. Silently, when we’re not looking. Sometimes we’re fully aware when we lose our joy, with the sudden death of a loved one or unexpected loss of job. But most of the time it just slowly drains away.

At one time you relished life. You laughed more. You sang in the shower. You smiled at people. You felt peace, even when things went sideways. But then you woke up one day and saw that the joy had leaked out of your life. 

It has happened to me from time to time. I got worn out or overwhelmed, or perhaps faced some disappointment as life tends to give us. Over time, little by little, I lost that joyful feeling.

Has it ever happened to you?

Joy is a vital gauge on the dashboard of the spiritual life. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, evidence of the divine. Some people say joy and happiness are different. Joy is what lasts, deep contentment and peace even in the storm. Happiness is about good circumstances, which may or may not come. But I have trouble telling joy and happiness apart. Both deal in delight, cheerfulness and satisfaction.

I believe that joy has crept out of our society. Maybe it’s as it should be. We’re in a time of reckoning, with #metoo and #timesup and addressing long-standing racial injustice, conversations we have been avoiding. We have lived with false heroes like Bill Cosby and felt deflated by partisan yelling while our kids wonder if their school will be the next site of a shooting. 

We won’t reclaim joy, or experience it for the first time, until we get honest about where we are. That’s true of a country and of souls. What have we lost? You have to go through the pain. You have to say “I’m sorry” or lament what has been taken from you: a childhood, a dream, a promise.

The good news is that joy can be rediscovered.

For my part, I am rediscovering joy in the little things: a quiet conversation with my daughter over mundane things, a glass of wine, good coffee with friends, the laughter of children, the delight of color, a job well done, a neighbor who loves me.

The psalmist said, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Like the dawn, joy is not far away. God can restore what has been stolen from you.