I should be happy. I should be really happy. I have a beautiful family, a husband who cherishes me, a little country farmhouse on a few acres where our four little crazies can catch toads and dig for worms. I have it all, all I could ever want…the American Dream…and yet I feel this pit in my stomach, this very real struggle every day to be happy.
And I have Jesus…a very real, deep, full relationship with Jesus. More than a going-to-church, following-the-rules kind of Christianity. I know the One who saved me and rescued me and frees me from any pressure to ever have to amount to anything. Because I am already enough in Him. Because I have everything in Him. And no one, not even myself, could ever take that away from me. I am secure in Him, for now and for eternity.
I look at those around me, those going through tremendous struggles…burying loved ones way too early or gathering the hair that keeps shedding from cancer treatments or making their home at the hospital bedside of their little one fighting for his life…and I’m angry at myself for not having it together, not being happy when I have nothing to be sad about.
But I’ve somehow lost the joy of my salvation.
Or maybe I never really had it?
No, I know that’s not true. I have sensed the freedom and joy that comes from His extravagant, undeserved love. And I still know it’s mine. But I’ve somehow lost that joy He promises to give, the joy that is our strength. And i feel its absence draining me, sucking my bones dry from the inside out. I know I’m missing something. I am desperate for something to rescue me from this daily fight to be happy.
And it’s in this place of desperation—this place of realizing that all my efforts have come up empty, this place of having everything I’ve ever deemed good and yet still fighting to feel happy—where the Lord has met me and is leading me out…leading me back to the joy of my salvation.
But it’s not coming the way I thought it would.
My joy is not returning with more fighting for love or more working to ensure that everything goes just right, protecting and laboring and grasping.
My joy is returning as I learn to stop seeking it.
My joy is returning as I choose to believe and walk in His words…that “anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who gives up his life for My sake will gain it.” As I give up the struggle to work for happiness, as I surrender the very thing that I am terrified to lose even though it has already alluded me, I am shakily, nervously trusting that My Father will care for me. As I am learning to stop thinking about my needs, my feelings, my wants, taking the Lord at His word and choosing to believe what He says, I am tasting joy again. And it is sweeter than any joy I’ve felt before.
As I daily, hundreds of times a day, choose to let go of my white-knuckle grip on controlling the outcome, on serving myself in order to find my happiness- defending myself against the “wrong” done to me, fighting for position, feeding my desires- as I let these things go and “take up my cross and follow Him,” He is filling me with joy.
It’s the beautiful paradox of the Christian faith that was modeled so perfectly in our fully human Savior…that the moment I give up my life is precisely the moment that I begin to find it. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
So here’s to forgetting about myself. Here’s to letting go of fighting for happiness, of defending myself and my rights, of working to fill myself. And here’s to giving myself on behalf of others…in the little things of getting out of bed early to make pancakes for the littles, and in the big things of giving my stuff, my time, myself to better the lives of those who are hurting.
Here’s to giving up my own life daily…a million times a day…and finding that’s when He is able to fill me again with the joy of my salvation.