Everyday life is full of many little struggles – impatience, upset, disappointment. Not enough sleep, a stain on your favorite shirt as you’re trying to leave for work, a long line at the post office with a crying baby in tow…these aren’t major incidents but they get under the skin and create an angry cloud encamped around us that can seem impenetrable.
The other day I got very little sleep. I tossed and turned, had a cosleeping baby who was tossing and turning, and then finally was woken from my restive night by a cry from one of my older children that they had wet the bed. I was left wide awake at 3am with just a couple hours of bad sleep to sustain me. Later, a handyman came to do work on our house. He took several hours instead of the one or so I had budgeted for. Unable to concentrate with the sounds of sawing and hammering, we missed homeschool and instead of our usual weekly shop early in the morning when everyone is fresh, we had to brave a very busy grocery store on a Friday afternoon.
The kids wanted wanted wanted all day. I couldn’t seem to focus long enough on any one thing to get anything done. We decided to end our day in reverence by attending a Latin rite mass that evening as a family. We rushed around to get everyone dressed and out the door on time, only to have all three kids fall asleep on the way there. The dress I was wearing made it impossible to nurse the baby in public, so instead of waking her up and heading into church with sleepy children, I waited in the car while my husband ran inside the church. When he came out an hour later, my back was aching from a tightened muscle I picked up earlier in the week. On the way home, I got on the highway in the wrong direction and landed ourselves in Philly traffic, doubling the time it should have taken to get home.
I fell asleep before nine pm, putting the baby to bed, only to be woken up a few hours later by another kiddo who had a nighttime accident.
That day, I was …how do you say…grumpy. And I go and read over the above paragraph and think, “Well yeah of course. How could I not be?”
But as I was lying in bed after getting my child cleaned up and back to bed, I thought about how much the Bible talks about joy. In fact in the RSV, “Joy” is used 172 times. And when I go back and read that summary of my day, I know there was so much to be joyful about in the spaces between each sentence. The fact that I could even type those sentences or reread my writing is a testament to why I should be joyful – I’m alive!
So I got to looking for verses within the Bible about joy. I invite you to look these over, see if one calls out to you. If one does? Write it down and put it on a sticky note. Memorize it. Pin the image. Then in those moments of frustration, of impatience, of grumpiness, of everyday suffering, call to mind that joyful phrase, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and lay your frustrations at the foot of the cross. In crying out to God for help – Abba, Father! – even if you need to do it fifty times in one day, He will give you the help you need. Lean on Him who is stronger than any woe and keep leaning on Him no matter how many times the joy gets smothered. The more we can humble ourselves before God, admitting to ourselves that we desperately need Him, the greater that joy will take root and flourish in our hearts, even on the toughest days, even when it goes beyond everyday suffering to those more rare moments of monumental suffering when our faith, hope, and love of God might struggle most to survive the storm.
For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done,
I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
How great are Your works, O Lord!
Your thoughts are very deep.
Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Cry aloud and shout for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
What’s your favorite piece of Scripture or prayer on your tough days? Drop a line in the comments – I’d love to know!