On the drive home this evening, the thought struck me how beautiful the city lights were against the wet pavement, with a few Christmas lights added to the mix. That was my first thought. Which kind of shook me. Because this time last year, and the year before, and every year prior for the last few years, my thoughts were so very far from that. My thoughts were centered on how the early darkness just seemed to press in on me and I couldn’t breathe. Winters saw me stocking up on St. John’s Wort, an herbal anti-depressant. That’s what my winter nights consisted of: St. John’s Wort, lots of Chinese food, and many tears.
I think that is perhaps why the passing of Robin Williams hit me so hard this past summer. While I may never have considered taking my own life, the thoughts could have easily have been there. I felt the hopelessness and helplessness of being stuck in a situation I felt would never change. My life felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I had lost my joy and I didn’t know how to find it again. So many of us are on the precipice that Robin found himself plummeting from. Had he lost his joy like I’d lost mine?
I’ve heard so many sermons over the years by many preachers that Christians shouldn’t be depressed. It just wasn’t allowed. It was sinful. Christians were always supposed to be joyful. I felt like I had failed in some regard, because I wasn’t a happy-go-lucky Christian with a smile plastered on my face 24/7. I was supposed to have the “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Isn’t that what the song says? So what the heck was wrong with me? The enemy takes pleasure in taking a person’s deepest, darkest thoughts and using them against them.
displace: to remove from the usual or proper place.
While that’s the medical definition of the word, doesn’t it make sense? A person’s joy should be located in their heart. But what if someone went in and performed destructive surgery, removing that joy? The enemy had displaced my joy.
I felt at the end of my rope. All I knew to do, was to continue praying and seeking the Lord.
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14, NLT)
Day after day, some harder than others, and week after week, much prayer and much encouragement got me through. I won’t lie and say that I always remained optimistic, and there were times I tried to take things into my own hands.
However, with a divinely orchestrated answered prayer, my life recently changed for the better.
What a difference a year makes. What a difference a day makes.
The Lord has returned my joy to me. I don’t think that my joy was attached to any particular situation, but when the Lord answers a long-prayed prayer, it’s hard not to let it affect your demeanor.
I’ve been reacquainting myself with the little things that bring happiness to my heart. I can now smile on the way home, because I know that there is hope.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
So I have my joy back. It may not be as bright, shiny, and naive as it once was. It’s a little burnished and scuffed, but it’s there.
I’m smiling more.
I now have a happy heart instead of a sorrowful one when I sing along to a Christmas carol.
The darkness may only last for a little while because joy comes in the morning.