“There’s joy in both.”
This mantra has been echoing in my head for months now, ever since a friend of mine sent me those words right when I needed to hear them. Right now, I’m watching the range of life seasons my friends are in, the happiness they’re seemingly consumed with – stepping into their careers, traveling across the world, falling in love. And oftentimes I wonder, in the mundane, everydayness of life – is there joy here? Truly?
In this season, I am fighting for joy. This season, in which my heart is tired, I am learning to find hope again.
In conversations with a wide range of my friends, I’ve found so many of us to be walking through similar things – almost all with the common theme of deeply searching for hope when life has been disappointing and messy in some way or another.
I’ve noticed in years past, that I’ve sat on living room floors with my friends until four o’clock in the morning discussing the intricacies of life, relationships and dreams and theories – but in 2018, we sat on beaches and couches and in corner cafés and took long road trips, and didn’t just talk about living – we actually lived. We learned. We cried. We experienced heartache. We asked God hard questions. And we did gritty, real life, together.
There’s joy in both. In both the dreaming, and the living.
My heart is learning once again to stay hopeful in the midst of the mess, because the One who causes the sun to rise every morning with the promise of new mercies is guiding me through my every step in the dark and promising me that just as the light returns, so too will His hope and joy rise again in my soul. It is simply my job to trust, to rest in His goodness and faithfulness, and lean into His strength when I have none.
I am thankful it is not on my shoulders to make sure everything in the world is perfect. It is not my responsibility to redeem my world or to be its savior; only Jesus can do that, and He knows I’d be a terrible Savior if I tried. But I will be a lighthouse – a beacon of hope signaling to all wandering through the darkness that I stand on the solid ground of Jesus Christ, and that hope is found here. Grace is found here. Rest is found here. Joy is found here because He is here.
And though I acknowledge my brokenness and do not make light of it, I also do not let it have the final say over my life. For the God who spoke the universe into being, and made a way through the Red Sea, who breathed life into dry bones, and made a warrior and a king out of a shepherd-child, and who spoke His holy Word to prophets on mountaintops and was faithful to His people by day and by night — He too is faithful to me. He walks with me. He is present with me. He was broken for me and yet redeems me and makes me whole.
He left His holy throne in Heaven, and made His way down to this broken, desolate world. He stepped in and met me in my sin, and showed me radical grace and abundant life as He let His body be broken and His lifeblood be spilled and His dignity be shattered — and all because of His wild, immeasurable love. He knows my brokenness because He Himself was broken too.
But this hope I hold onto is not simply that He was broken like me, for me. No. His story does not end there. He rose from that grave, and so too do I walk in newness of life. And to know that promise is a glorious thing: the promise of redemption and the assurance of the hope in my soul that one day, all the pain will have grown and stretched me into who I was created to be, and it all will be a distant memory, because I will be with Him, and I will be like Him, and my joy will be complete.
These are the things that I have not only said, and written about, and tied up in a pretty little bow – these are beautiful but messy truths, fleshed out. Things I have known deeply and intimately, like I know the taste of coffee in the morning.
There was a lot of ugly vulnerability in 2018, a lot of wrestling with hope and trust and pain in so many of the lives around me. But there has been light, too. Real light. Light that comes with the confidence in the steady goodness of God, rather than the vague assurance that everything’s just going to be okay.
And thus, I can say confidently in this season, “there’s joy in both” – in both seasons of happiness, and seasons of pain. Seasons of relationships and seasons of singleness. Seasons of exploring the world and seasons of quietly building something in my everyday life. There is joy in the seasons of spilling over with laughter, and there is joy in the seasons of loneliness.
There is joy in both, because God’s presence is in both, and His hope is in both, and His grace is in both, and the God who spoke the galaxies into being and calls every star by name calls me by name. For I am His child, and His Spirit is inside of me.
I found a journal entry from the other day, and saw a line I have no memory of scribbling down: “Why am I fretting about tomorrow when my mission is today?”
Today, my mission is to love fully. To be present with those around me. To choose to take hold of the life I have been given; this very moment I’ve been given. To take every breath with thankfulness to the One who gave me yet another to praise Him with.
There is a beautiful promise here. A promise that God is unfailingly, faithfully, deeply good. And not in the ambiguous “God is good” way that goes on Hallmark cards. But in the way that reminds us He is fighting for our souls; He already defeated death on our behalf. He gave up everything for us, and He quietly orchestrates our lives as we follow after Him that things would work out for our good – whether we ever see it on this side of eternity or not.
The opportunity for joy exists in every area of life, simply because He is present with us here – present in the heartache, the loss, the seeming hopelessness. Because in Christ, we are never without hope.
I wish I had more answers. More answers as to why God allows suffering, and injustice, and tragedy with no explanation. I could craft an answer worthy of a Sunday School class, but not as easily one to satisfy the wrestlings of day-to-day life.
But I do know this: God’s not threatened by our questions. His grace is not threatened by our failures. His love is not threatened by our brokenness. His character is not threatened by our doubts.
And I am choosing to fight for joy in this season, because I have tasted His goodness and peace, and it is like no other.