Written by Amy Shaw-Chilson (c) copyright 11/13/18
A year ago, I am not sure I knew where I would be. God did, but I had not even the slightest clue. I thought I would be in wheel chair and that I would be even more inside myself and watching the world around me live as I looked on as my life was slipping through my fingers. Praise God, I am not where I thought I would be!!! A few days ago a friend of mine asked me to help her nail down a topic for a ladies Bible retreat. She wanted it to be about JOY. Why with so many commodities at our disposal are we (as a whole) so depressed and lacking joy in our everyday lives. She mentioned that it is so hard to find joy in the small things, going to the grocery store, caring for the kids, going to work, ect. I have been thinking about that. Joy. What is it?
The King James dictionary defines joy as “the passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good, that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire.” In the Greek, joy (chara) is defined as “an inner gladness, a deep-seated pleasure. It is the depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart and a cheerful heart leads to cheerful behavior. Joy is the deep-down sense of wellbeing that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.” I like the Greek definition the best. But it also makes me think. Where was my joy a year ago?
I didn’t have any. Why? Was I lost? Yes, oh yes I was. In my depression I couldn’t even hold on to things in my life that should have made me happy. My children, my husband, my friends—all great reasons to find s little joy in my life. But NOTHING gave me joy. Nothing. And as I start to look back and as I let the Greek definition of Joy sink into my brain; I am beginning to understand why. I had no depth of assurance or confidence in my relationship with Christ. Christ, even though I went to church, was absent from my life. Bible study was non-existent. Prayer was a folly in my eyes. And I secretly blamed God for where I was and who I was becoming. I played at being Christian. I played at being alive. There was no light in my life. I was encased in darkness and depression. I saw no light at the end of my tunnel, I only saw me in a casket with no hope. That’s ugly, but that’s also the truth.
What changed in my life to be where I am now? Why am I now experiencing God’s joy? All my steps where guided by God. Even if I didn’t know it then (a year ago), I do now. God has prepared all my steps. While I was walking blindly through my darkness, God was always there guiding me to where I am now, and He will continue to guide me now. But while I was in my darkness, He guided me in subtle ways, His light was not as bright, more of a cloud or smoke. I wasn’t ready for His brilliance then. I was led to a surgeon, who fought with my insurance, who told me the truth, who was real with me, and who performed a surgery on me called stomach sleeve. With this surgeon’s help I was able to start this road to recover my joy. With the help of my best friend, Debbie, we started this website and we vowed to be there for each other while we struggled to get healthy. My husband and parents helped out during recovery time with surgery, recovery was a beast. There were times during recovery I thought why in the world did I allow this to get done to myself. Recovery was hard because I hurt, and I couldn’t eat like I used to. I had to learn to eat differently and it took a long while to figure it out. I am still working on it. I still was in a darkened place during recovery-but God’s light was starting to shine through.
As my recovery stage was ending, I saw more of the brilliance of God around me. I was in a metamorphosis stage of recovery; my body was healing from surgery-I was able to eat more solid food. Yet, my mind and my heart were wanting more food, things I shouldn’t and couldn’t eat and in amounts that I shouldn’t and couldn’t eat. I wondered what was going on with my mind. I realized I was still in recovery, now it was time to start working on my mind and heart. My minds eye and my hearts throne were still occupied by the one constant in my depression and darkness—food. I had an unhealthy love and addiction to food. Now that I couldn’t eat like I used too—I was forced to deal with this aspect of my life. I had to de-throne what I had worshiped for so long—food. If I thought recovering from surgery was hard, this—this was and is a million times harder. If I had a bad day the first thing, I would want to do is go to a Chinese buffet and eat-but logically I wouldn’t be able to eat it nor eat it in the amounts that I would want to eat it in. I would get very sick. I realized very quickly that when my emotions where high and I didn’t know what to do with them. I had taught myself how to eat my emotions, and now I was having to teach myself new coping mechanisms. I now, when emotions are running high, go to the gym and work out. I lose myself to music and I work out and I push myself. I also write (a blog writer writes-what a concept).
Now what does this all have to do with recovering my joy? While I didn’t go into great detail of my surgery time or recovery time, basically a brief synopsis; looking back over my journey I have found some truths that go hand in hand with the Joy that the Greek dictionary defines. In my life where darkness was, I now have light. Things in my life bring me joy, I see the good and the positive—because I feel good and positive. I am seeing the work of my God’s hands in this exquisite journey that He is guiding me through. I am loving myself, truly, for the first time. What people think and say don’t bother me as much. I have been told that losing weight this way with surgery is kind of cheating. Where I am at now, it was such a blessing to be guided to exactly where I am. Those nay sayers can keep on thinking I was cheating. But let me tell you, I feel blessed and extremely happy. I am filled with joy. I am seeing changes in me and in my relationship with God. I am leaning on Him more. I am more confident in my relationship with him and I defiantly have more assurance in my future with God. And I completely agree with the words “a cheerful heart lead to cheerful behavior.”
Recovering our Joy. While I can’t express in words of exactly how I found mine(yet), I do know that recovering our joy starts with basic baby steps. Sometimes we feel that some people start out life with a silver spoon. Blessing fall like rain on them. Then there are us. The people who are born with a constant wooden spoon attached to our backsides. Our failures and flaws are evident to those around us. I think of Ester in the Bible. When looking at the surface of Ester she seems like one of the silver spoon people. She was beautiful, called in by the king to live in the palace and live a princess lifestyle. But if you take a closer look at her life, I think she may just be one of those wooden spoon people. Her beauty was a curse, it ripped her away from her family and from her friends. It took her away from her religion, politics at that time—well it was prudent if you were not a Jew. She probably felt helpless and felt fake for fear to really say who she was, a Jew. But her uncle reminded her that God had led her steps to where she was and that maybe just maybe God put her exactly where she was to help her people. No one ever wakes up and says, hey I am going to be a hero today! Heroes are kind of forced into becoming. She could not ignore what was going on to her people, eventually it would trickle up to her—even though she was in the castle and the even though the king liked her. She would eventually feel the sting of being a Jew. Sobering thought that, we often forget to notice God’s hand in our lives when we feel our darkest. We are led to cliff where we must jump off or run back into the darkness. Ester decided to take a leap of faith. She said, “If I perish, I perish.” That comment weighs heavy on my heart and mind. She came to grips with her situation for what it was and dealt with it accordingly. And as she jumped off that cliff, God’s hand—who was always present—gave her wings to fly and she saved her people. She became a hero.
Maybe recovering our joy is learning to be content with who we are, where are in our journey, and not looking at others wanting what they have—but loving what we do have. Maybe it’s seeing the small things in our life and seeing the beauty in them. Maybe it is reconnecting with God to have that confident assurance in our relationship with Him. I am not sure what God has instore for me and my future. I feel like I am still in the recovery stage, but I am able to see Him more brightly in and around me. I do know that I am more willing for Him to use me, in all my imperfectness that I am. So that wooden spoon I have, I am so blessed to have had it in my life. It’s the little things we overlook. It’s the common everyday blessings that we tend to not notice. Life’s obstacles seem to blind us to all the blessings we have from God, that’s Satan’s plan. Satan wants to distract us from having joy in our lives. I know for me I need to concentrate on what God has given me and is doing in my life. I need to keep learning to love myself and learning to have confidence in who I am and who I am with God. Joy is a learned lifestyle. Cheerful thoughts ignite a cheerful heart that leads to cheerful behaviors.
For maybe I was made for such a time as this. And maybe, just maybe, you were too.
Find Joy. Experience it. Embrace it. Hold on to it.
And give it away to those around you for free.