Finding Joy -or- A Light In Dark Places

Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Isaiah 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

 For many, these are hard times.  Times when we find it hard to do the next thing, hard to move ahead, when we perhaps wish that there was just some way to give up.  Times when we remember joyful times and wish for them again, when we miss our loved ones who are gone from us, when we feel we cannot move on.

If someone could show us a way back to joy from these hard, sad, dark places, would we not seize it and follow it, like a lover follows his or her beloved, like a bee follows the scent of nectar, like a bird or squirrel following a trail of seeds?

I have the way, but it means giving something up.  Here it is, in six steps.  Think of it as a half-price twelve-step program:   
  1. Give Up
  2. Smile
  3. Love
  4. Make Do
  5. Help Others
  6. Start Over
Give Up:  Give up your hurts and pains, your feelings of being subject to injustice and cruelty, your need to nurse your injuries, your sense that your rights and entitlements have been crushed.  Forgive whomever you need to, and put these wrongs out of your mind.  They are not helping you.  Give them up, new and old.  Many more hurts will come, and you will have to give them up in turn. 

Smile:  Because you are in God’s hands, and because it will give you courage, and encourage those who are with you.  This is a battle, and if we fight it with courage, we are assured of our victory.  Smile for courage, for yourself and others.

Love:  Because when you love, you invite God into your life, and love reminds you of how much you care for others. Remember, our care for each other is a good part of why we are here.  Love each other, and remember to love those who are difficult to love.  Remember that you have been unlovable yourself at times, and others have loved you anyway.  Honor that love by multiplying it.

Make Do:  Decide what you really need, and make do with that, and try and be smart with your time and abilities.  Find the best way forward you can for now, and keep your eyes open for the next practical and healthy opportunity.  ‘Make Do’ means no wallowing in self-pity, no giving in to despair.  It means you step forward and say ‘Here I Am’ and ‘What Can I Do Now.’

Help Others:  No matter how little you have, you can help others.  Sometimes helping is as little as a smile, or an ‘I Care’ said (or written) with feeling, or a listening ear - sometimes it is much, much more.  Everyone can give.  Figure out how much giving you can reasonably do, and do it.  Make time to touch other people’s lives.  Seek out those in need, and make a difference.  Do this faithfully, carefully, lovingly, practically, and with a smile, and you will find joy in your heart.  This is the joy of Christ.  Cherish it.

Start Over:  Start over in a better place, emotionally and spiritually.  Reset your needs, and your attitudes.  Let go of desires for things that are high-maintenance and expensive, and latch onto the practical and reasonable.  And in that spirit, start over at the beginning of this list, happily, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and with care for yourself and others. 


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