A lot of Christians say that Christians should always be joyful, and I also believe that Christians experience increasing joy. However, I think some believe “joy” means “paint an artificial smile on my face and pretend everything is ok, even though my life is falling apart and my heart is breaking.” I don’t think it means this, and neither do I think it’s always a bouncy, trouncy, Tigger type of joy. I think there are times of bright and dancing joy, but I think it’s usually more of an authentic deepness, a settled foundation, so that even when life is difficult and our hearts are breaking, there’s a light in the darkness, hope in despair, a knowing that we are always loved and never abandoned by God sort of joy. It’s like a line in a children’s song: “Real joy is mine, even if the teardrops start.”
About ten years ago or so, a 40-something year old man in our church got cancer. He had wife who loved him and two children. SS was well-liked in the church. Many people desperately prayed for his healing–individually and in Sunday school classes, small groups, prayer meetings, and 24-hour prayer vigils were held for him. Despite all this prayer, the cancer continued to ravage this him. One guy, a close friend of this SS, used to visit Sunday school classes and passionately plead with people to pray for him. He declared that SS wasn’t healed because people didn’t have enough faith. He said that the prayer, “God’s will be done” was a cop-out, prayed by people with weak faith. (Please don’t judge this man too harshly, he was feeling grief over his friend’s illness, and struggling with his own faith.) In just a few months, SS succumbed to his illness and died.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I used to try to trust God for my WHOLE life, all at once. I’d think of various trials and sufferings and “what ifs,” such as “What is JJ got killed? How would I survive?” Or “What if EJ lost his job?” Or “What if I got cancer?” You know, that sort of thing. I didn’t know if my faith would be strong enough to survive those terrible things. But gradually God taught me that I don’t really need to worry about trusting Him for my WHOLE life, I just have to trust Him through NOW. No matter how bad or scary circumstances got, I could always manage to trust Him for today. And if today is too long a time, I can trust Him for the next hour. And if I can’t manage to trust Him for an hour, I can trust Him for the next five minutes. If five minutes is too long, I can trust Him for THIS MOMENT. If I trust Him this moment, and this moment, and this moment, soon I will be trusting Him for five minutes, and an hour, and a day, and a life-time. Because that’s all life is: a series of moments and steps.
Several summers ago I began to walk longer and longer distances with my dogs. I started out walking one mile, then two mile, then five…At that point, my husband said, “See how far you can walk. Walk as far as you can and I will pick you up when you get tired.” So I walked to my church (at the time) which was 9.1 miles from home, and then I walked to the next town which was about 10 miles, and then I walked 6 miles out and turned around and walked home, for a total of 12 miles.