Surprised by Joy

I heard the screen door slam behind me as I ran out to the front yard and gasped for air. I breathed in deep gulps of oxygen as if I had been holding my breath for hours. Once my lungs were filled they emptied back out in the form of sobs. I cried like I hadn’t in a long time.  What was happening to me? Why now?

Just moments before we had been sitting inside in a bible study, going through our workbook and voicing out loud our answers to the questions it had asked us that week. This question was one I hadn’t gotten to yet at home…. so I had to stop and think about it and what my answer would be.  “What emotion do you struggle to share/admit/confess/show to God?”  Anger, guilt, happiness, worry, shame, sorrow, expectations, fear…. the list went on.

I quickly took inventory,  anger… check, I know very well my God is BIG enough to handle my anger and disappointment so I’ve shared openly to Him throughout the years,  happiness… check, He’s the first I run to. Worry, shame, sorrow…. check, it’s easy to tell Him all about my troubles and I know He has a HUGE bottle of tears all collected with my name on it. Fear…..  Fear….. a lump started developing in my throat. What was I afraid of??

I had faced the loss of my newborn son and found God to be sufficient through it all. For the last 4 years I felt like I could face anything. I wasn’t scared of dying because for the last 4 years I had looked forward to the day where I would be rid of sin and pain and would start the next life so glorious. I didn’t fear being alone because for the last 4 years God had shown me what a terrible god my spouse made and that He alone could work change and repentance in our wicked hearts and that marriage isn’t ultimate, I didn’t fear theft, fire or decay…. because for the last 4 years this world had a strangely dim appearance and didn’t really offer me anything I desired.

For the last 4 years I had fully accepted that I had been changed and life was altered for me. I had embraced grief, and though painful somehow found comfort even within that pain. I had found strength in the fact that after the initial tears stopped falling they didn’t surface very often at all. I adored the intimacy with my God. I daydreamed about the coming Kingdom and the glories it would have. I was grateful that the struggle to love this life and all it’s worldly pleasures weren’t very tempting and at times even undesirable. The beauty of my everyday were made up of babies who needed someone to love them right then and there as much as I needed someone to love. Pressing into Him and pouring onto them… that was my daily motto. And I knew that somehow the day to day routines of loving each new baby God placed into my arms were healing me, I just wasn’t fully aware of how.

So here I was in this living room, not daring to speak the word Fear out loud to my bible study group because all of the sudden the ugly truth had been revealed to my heart…. for months I had been in a funk, not always, but especially in church services, when anyone wanted to talk about God, or when a serious matter about our kids would surface (cough, teething, dangers to come, driving with them in the car, etc…) okay, so maybe it was all the time then. But I just couldn’t put my finger on WHY I was feeling like that. I had learned not to depend on these fickle emotions of mine and tried to press into God and preach the truths of Scripture to myself as I always have before… but it wasn’t changing. I still had great angst….and the strange part was that I was SO happy. I was happier than I had been in….. well, four years.

My marriage was stronger than ever, my church was so sweet and supportive of our family, my relatives were all close by and doing well, my children were just amazing and I just breathed them in deeply every day. I was living my dream come true.  But deep within my heart what I didn’t know, was that I was terrified I would wake to find that my world would be once again shattered. A world that at some point went from being shattered 4 years ago to being whole again.  I hadn’t noticed how TV commercials and special moments made me cry again. I hadn’t realized how I didn’t long for heaven as I once did.  I didn’t recognize the revitalization of my marriage.  I didn’t take note when I allowed myself to start planning ahead for my kids birthdays again or  started looking forward to moments with them in the years to come.  My appetite for earthy joys was waking up. Somewhere along the way the strange dimness faded away and the world became bright again.

Healing. They tell you that it takes time. They tell you God is the great Healer. They tell you there is no mark for when you quit grieving… if you ever do. What they didn’t tell me was that when healing does take place….. yes, it’s wonderful….but it’s also terrifying.

They  didn’t tell me that you almost have to go through a grieving for your grieving. They didn’t tell me that one day you wake up and you realize that somewhere along the way you feel like you’ve almost come full circle, that you feel similar to the way you felt before the crushing, you feel joy like you felt way back then… and it surprises and almost shocks you. That you will deal with guilt over being so happy.  That you will DEEPLY miss the intimacy you once felt with God and would long for it back if it didn’t mean letting go of the incredible happiness that He’s put back into your life again…. then you feel guilty over that.

I had fallen back in love with my life.  But along with that love, came a paralyzing fear that this sweet wonderful life wrapped up in babies, marriage, and happiness would be taken away from me. I think I thought if I didn’t deal with that creeping feeling just under the surface, then I didn’t have to think about it ever happening. I wanted to be close to God…. but I had forgotten how to in a season of joy. We sing the song… “He gives and takes away…. blessed be the Name.”  which I have sung with every inch of my heart many times.  I knew He was the Giver and the Taker…. but it was trusting Him in the giving again that I was struggling to be at peace with.  Everyone teaches about Job finding God to be enough in the stripping away… but did he ever struggle once he was restored and re-blessed?  I felt bad that I didn’t want to go to heaven any time soon and feared that God would judge me for keeping my hands and heart wrapped tightly to things here that He would strip them away from me in order to have my affections rightly aligned once again. I thought God was upset with me because things weren’t the same between us all of the sudden…. or had it been a slow change? I didn’t know how to live for Him wholeheartedly AND  live in the here and now to the fullest. I no longer had the innocence and  bliss of my high school college years to fuel my delight in God, but nor did I have the depths of despair to push me into His almighty  comforting arms. I was full of FEAR.  And the Holy Spirit was using this small weeknight bible study to bring to the surface my sin, my struggle, my need for Him.

I had learned what it was like to give into my emotions of grief and then pick myself up with the truth of Scripture. Breaking a little and healing a little….Falling apart and letting God glue pieces of me back together.   It was what I did.

But life recently…… this was new.  This was a constant state of contentment and joy…. and an underlying paralyzing fear of it being all taken away again. What I needed to learn all over again was how to give into my emotions of fear  (i.e. recognize them instead of pushing them back down) and then preach the truths of Scripture to myself, the same unfailing Word that carried me through heartbreak was just as strong to fight my biggest fears.

She put her hand on my arm…. she had walked out after me at the bible study to make sure I was okay.  I wasn’t. She let me sob… like really sob. She heard my very raw fears being uttered for the first time out loud. She heard me confess my lack of trust in God and my heart that missed His nearness dearly. Then, when the cries had subsided,  she reminded me that she understood why I felt those things and reminded me that I wasn’t believing in the unchanging truths about our God.  That our God over and over taught us how to live right here on earth… He’s the one who gives the blessings of children and instructs us how to raise them to become godly generations for the years to come… That He wants us to have life in abundance, abundant sorrow… yes, but abundant JOY for sure.  And that’s He’s BIG enough to run to with my every fear. That just because I was receiving healing and wasn’t feeling the closeness of the Comforter didn’t mean that He wasn’t there, it meant all the more that He had been and still is…… I knew Him as Comforter, but didn’t recognize Him as Healer.

He does not want His children to live in fear of death…. or His loving sovereignty. He wants to be my sufficiency in my happiness…. just as much as He was in my sorrow.  He was my comfort. He is my healing. He gave. He took away. He gives again.  Blessed be His name.  God had been the blanket and anchor that my cold drifting soul so desperately needed but now He’s the wind in my sails, steering wheel and the sunshine as our lives soar across each uncharted territory ahead and He’s the giver of  joy in each new discovery along the way….no matter what those may be.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

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