Looking for Joy

Who doesn’t love hearing a good story? – especially one where God has done the impossible and changed circumstances and situations. Seeing God’s work after a crisis is important, but so too is seeing it during the crisis.

In a previous post, I shared 5 things not to say to a Christian struggling with depression. It wasn’t a theoretical piece, but one I live out each day. You see, I have struggled with depression for the past decade.

My experience with depression is like living in a world where I am the only one surrounded by a blanket of fog. It’s disorienting, confusing and it distorts things. Affirming words can pass through the fog and end up as condemnations.

As a follower of Jesus it’s hard watching others so free and passionate in their worship, so joyful in their embraces, and not be swept away by my own shame, guilt, and unworthiness.

A Story Worth Telling

I want to share this with you, not because God has miraculously transformed everything. I want to share it because God is working despite my struggles.

And I want to share it because other Christians struggle with depression. When I interviewed English writer and pastor Mark Meynell about his struggle with depression, he shared the following words for Christians suffering depression:

‘You’re not alone. You’re really not. It’s common. It’s not always obvious who the safe people are that you can turn to and that can be very difficult and isolating, and I know of people who have taken a while to figure out the trusted friend cause it’s not immediately obvious.”

Looking for Joy

Joy is a loaded word. It’s listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit. So, you should expect to see it present and growing in the lives of Christians, right? But joy is so often a source of guilt and shame for those struggling with depression.

I’ve searched for joy. I’ve felt the condemnation of not finding it. And I’ve felt the shame of feeling that joylessness meant there was something wrong with me.

But I was looking for the wrong thing.

I found joy. It doesn’t send me dancing tra-la-la across the kitchen singing ‘Oh Happy Day’. (The kitchen is probably the only place I’d do this, believe me!) In fact, the joy I’ve found has little to do with happiness at all.

A Cry from Exodus

I love the Exodus story. God’s people cried out to him when they were slaves. But he didn’t just magically transport them away to the Promised Land. He waited years till he gave this answer in Exodus 3:7-8:

“I observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them.”

Looking for JoyGod saw. God heard. And God stepped down. These words are monumental. This is a God who cares and acts. He is personal.

God stepped down for his people in Egypt.

In Jesus, God stepped down into this world for all people.

I believe God still steps down today into our situations. Wait, no, he never left! After all, didn’t he say ‘I will never leave or forsake you’? Didn’t he send the Holy Spirit to live within us?

Finding Joy

The joy I found is not a feeling. It is knowing Jesus is right here with me. It is being sure that the one who said he would never leave or forsake me truly hasn’t.

Joy is being able to say what so many of the Psalms say – ‘God, this isn’t how it is meant to be, but I still trust you.’

Looking for Joy

Joy is being contented knowing Jesus has stepped into your fog, that he looks through it with you. He has embraced your isolation. It isn’t demanding that God do something about the fog (even though you long he would).

Joy is letting Jesus turn your eyes upward and show you there are clear skies above. He helps you peek over the fog, to realize it won’t last forever, and he’s the one who will bring it to an end.

This is the joy I found.

Ten years in and I still struggle with depression. I suspect it will be an ongoing struggle in my life. I’m realistic about that. But God is still at work.

God saw. God heard. And God stepped into my fog. I know what it is to know brokenness, to know shame, to know guilt. And I know the one who doesn’t hesitate to step into the midst of those situations to be with you.

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