Living with joy, even on bleak days. Really.
By Elisa Morgan
"Sometimes you have to poke holes in the dark before it bleeds light."
- Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back With Joy
I don't like January. Oh, I like the "new" part of January where everything is bright and shiny and fresh. But I don't like the dark part. January is close to the darkest month of the year. The sun has slid south and left us with the smallest amount of daylight from mid-December through mid-January. And the twinkly light of Christmas has been boxed up for another year.
I sink into the window seat of my breakfast room with my journal, fully intending to take stock and rev up for the new. But I somehow stall. It's early-so early that the sun hasn't even said hello. I crane my eyes, searching for the earliest appearing stab of light reflected from the east onto the mountains in my western view. I wait, yearning for the anticipated reward. Will light come with a clear-skied sunrise? Or will it toy with my hope, hidden in winter's haze?
Another early morning interaction flits through my thoughts. Margaret Feinberg had joined me in a northern recording studio in the wee hours of morning. We sat together with my friend, Mart, and prepared to dive into what the Bible says about joy for our radio program Discover the Word.
Margaret's face beamed with the very essence of confident, exuberant gladness. Having survived a season of cancer, she had met and wrestled her foe to the floor. Yet no guarantees had been given to my friend so she forged ahead with one hand on the Scriptures and the other cupping her hard-won discovery of how God gives joy even in the inky-black moments of our lives.
But there's a trick Margaret taught us: a condition to God's gift of joy. We have to want it. And look for joy. And see it when it comes. And carve it out of the clutch that contains it. We have to poke holes in the darkness about us to give joy entrance into our hearts. Then when it comes, which it always does, we have to hold on to it for dear life. Like treasure.
When have you last touched joy? Not the silly happiness of unwrapping a dazzly gift. Not the "told you so" satisfaction of getting your way. Not the giddy glee of a positive bank balance. No, joy: a deep knowingness that God loves you and is with you in this very moment and that he means good for you-even if you can't see him. Even if it is still dark.
Maybe that moment when you held your sleeping child in your arms and a beautiful calmness washed through your heart and you realized God had finally answered the prayer of your soul.
When the diagnosis came yet your spirit surprisingly seeped peace and you noticed the spirit of God meeting your need.
As you sat alone in a moment and instead of lonely, you felt filled. You turned your heart to recognize that God was indeed present with you in the absence of anyone else.
When darkness comes, God takes our finger and points it to fight back with joy. To want joy. To search for joy. To find joy. To grab joy and gather it to our souls. As Margaret says, to poke holes in the darkness until it bleeds light.
On my window-seat perch this January morning, hungry for less dark and more light, I turn my gaze away from my still-veiled view and look into the heart of my home. The heart of me. I lift a prayer and ask for God's presence and perspective. I poke a hole. I remember the answered prayer of my new grandson, the hope of my daughter in motherhood once again, the fulfillment in my son's new marriage, the good man I have been wed to over thirty years. God bleeds light in spite of the gloom about me.
I pick up my pen and open my journal to address this January ahead of me. I fight back with joy.
This post by Elisa Morgan is part of Margaret Feinberg's Partymob for her brand-new book and Bible study, Fight Back With Joy. To join the celebration (and learn more), click here. To grab a copy of this book, click here.