(This is a part of LL Barkat's Thanksgiving Celebration. Head on over to Seedlings in Stone to read more…)
At a recent retreat, one of the questions put to me was this: "When have you experienced joy recently?".
(Now let me digress for a minute. My name is Joy. I kid you not, I have had people tell me that I was not allowed to be sad because my name is joy…and I would try not to fix said person with a sarcastic stare and remind them that it was my name not an emotion. It has been lobbed my way many a time over the years, to the point that I have just learned to nod and smile and go on my way.)
The thing is, though, being named after such an emotion, I know first hand how many have a slightly skewed definition of joy. Or a profound misunderstanding. Joy does not automatically equal happiness. Happiness abounds out of any circumstance, where as joy seems directly related to circumstance. Merriam Webster on joy: "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires". My favorite definition, though, is this one: "Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control of every
area of my life", written by Paul Sailhamer. Both are definitions I have struggled with over the years. On one hand, circumstances are rarely so good as to evoke every happiness, and on the other hand, Mr. Sailhamer's definition mean that I really, truly, had to trust God fully and believe that He really was in control.
This whole definition conundrum flashed through my head as I contemplated the woman's question. It was on my mind too, as I read LL's invitation to celebrate thanks-giving; to count the blessings.
I finally, truly, understand joy. I can say, without doubt, that God is in control of my circumstances. It has probably been the most terrifying three months of my life, much of which I have not shared here. As many of you know, I lost a child in August to miscarriage, and nearly lost my life in the process because the pregnancy ruptured and bled into my abdominal space. This you know. What you do not know is that my husband lost his job less than four weeks later due to the economic crash. His entire division was laid off in one day- and none of them, including my husband, have found another job to date. Unemployment in our area jumped to 40% this quarter. Scary and terrifying sort of don't cover it. We've always tried to be frugal and not spend more than we earn, but at the same time, we have dealt with crushing medical expenses this year due to James' cancer scare. Our savings were minimal the week that he lost his job. I've done everything I can over the last year or two to cook and bake frugally while still feeding my growing brood of four kiddos well. In short, there was nothing we could do to make his job loss any better. We were at the mercy of the crash.
And you know what? We did not fall. He has been in control, every day, every week, every minute of the last three months. There are so many things I could tell you, so many blessings to count, so many to be named. His providence just amazes me in the darkest of moments. Just when we feel as if the oil is gone, so to speak, we find it never runs dry. And every time, it has been in such a way that there can be no doubt that God has orchestrated it- the amounts so exact and so fitted to the current need that it could not be mistaken. So many people used of God without even knowing that they were doing so…I wish I had reams and reams of paper to tell you the stories.
My answer: I have experienced joy every minute of the last three months. Unmistakable, unmitigated understanding that God has truly been in control, and that He is providing still. For the first time in my life, I truly understand contentment. I am sure that this sounds strange- how could anyone be content in such a circumstance? But I do. And I am so grateful, so thankful. I have found joy.
This thanks-giving, I give thanks, because God was, and is, and always will be our Jehovah Jireh, Our Provider.