I have been spending large quantities of time recently writing privately, and trying to figure out why I’m so regularly happy. While I can’t forget my past history of depression, the joy that I have in Christ seems obscene most days, and it’s lasted long enough that I no longer think it’s temporary.
It feels like a cycle of gratitude. Like the opposite of rumination and unhealthy thinking; like you’re being filled up. I have lived through enough mistakes at this point to understand that a person’s mistakes don’t determine their identity, but lack of health can absolutely distort who we are made to be in Christ. As I get more filled up, I am grateful for having perspective. While I used to despise people who were legitimately happy (including Christians), I now understand that being a few steps ahead of people who are currently suffering has nothing to do with what a jerk I must be (and especially for talking about it), but how I can minister to people in prayer and encouragement.
Honestly, it’s almost better to encourage quietly. While I can sometimes catch the patterns of what God is trying to teach people, it’s only seldom, with hope and guessing. Because I know personally how much mental health problems (or any sort of grief-inducing circumstances) suck, I have the blessed responsibility of interceding for people in prayer. It’s one of those things that is better done discretely because it’s not for your credit anyways. If God saves people from their pain, that is blessing enough.
I always thought the happy people were either “holy than thou” or completely spared from misfortune. Maybe happy people are just lucky, either for a while or a season, and it is just their duty to help intercede for the rest of us. When you live in community, it’s hard not to know when someone else is having a hard time. In my opinion, it’s more effective to ask God to help on the long run than to interject yourself into a person’s friend-zone without getting to know them first. Being kind to people and praying for them can be combined, and you can ask God to give you opportunities to minister to the people who you notice are hurting.
I don’t really know how this joy has come into my life, despite years of working towards it. This kind of joy isn’t something that can be earned, and I’m so grateful that it’s been made available to me in Christ Jesus. As a fairly young Christian, I often wonder if there is any explanation for why some people are willing to encounter this kind of joy, and some people never do. Just like wondering whether there is meaning in suffering, I question whether there is all that much meaning in the joy. Like, is encouraged by self-reflection? Does it have to do with suffering? Is it related to being open to criticism? Is it fair to even talk about joy (because that’s not really a problem)?
If this joy is so rapidly available to all who believe in Jesus, why do so few people follow through long enough to find it? Why is it that there are so few Christians that live truly productive, joyful, and satisfied lives? Do people just not know what they’ve signed up for, or do they just become alien to the Holy Spirit? I don’t really understand. If Christ’s love is the only thing that can heal, and truly heal, how can you be so close to the vine and not crave after it’s fruit? Like, do you even believe it’s there?
I totally didn’t. Part of me still thinks it’s got to be a joke, even if by living it out, I know that it’s real. I thought that perfect happiness was a fad or something Hallmark invented. Every day, I’m a little more sold.
But it’s out there: true love and joy and perfect peace and happiness and the whole shabaang. It looks exactly the opposite of what we all hope it will look like. Which makes living in happiness feel all that more bizarre. I consistently feel like my life is the living joke no one has the guts to believe in. Believing in death/destruction/pain/suffering/war? Those are such plausible renditions of reality. But joy that transcends death, space, time, and betrayal? That one takes a lot of guts to believe in.