Happiness and Joy are Different

I don't want to be here again. But life doesn't usually go the way you want it to. One of the main difficulties I have with depression is that I can't figure out if it's the Potter's chosen way of shaping me right now, or if it is because of my inability to stay focused on Him.

But here we are. There's no denying that. Slowly, old coping skills are coming back, and for the majority of the day, I can ignore the rain cloud hovering over my head. One of the most successful ways for me to dig out of depression, get up out of my bed, and live normally in these seasons is something called Opposite Action. All you have to do is figure out something to throw yourself into 100% that will provide positive reinforcement rather than negative. I'm a mother first, and I carry a huge load of mother guilt, so Opposite Action for me often entails doing something crazy with my kids.

I grabbed a pack of suncatchers and paint at Walmart on the way home from work. Just after breakfast yesterday, I stayed out of bed, and we opened paint pots and set to work. The table was a mess. The children were in heaven. And for an hour, I forgot to be depressed.

After we finished, we packed up, got lunch in town, and went to the Y. We spent four hours, swimming, rock climbing, zip lining, playing basketball, running on the track. Once again, depression and it's invasive thoughts had no room to take foothold as we ran around the Y. We emerged, hair steaming in the sub-zero gray day.

My day wasn't gray at all. I believe this is the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a passing emotion dependent on all kinds of external factors. But joy is stored within, and for those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, there is a constant wellspring of joy despite external factors. Ever since Amelia's illness in 2009, I Peter 1 has been the passage that has helped me hang on to joy even when happiness is entirely absent.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
Opposite Action is, in essence, what Christians have been practicing since the beginning of time. Moses was a man with a temper problem, a murderer, and someone who took flight at the first sign of danger, but he stood up to Pharoah through all the plagues and led the Israelites toward Canaan although he often felt like giving up and told God so on the mountaintops. Noah had never seen rain, but he built an ark out of obedience. Sarah had no hope left of bearing a child and her sadness over this fact is evident in her response to God's promise when she is an old woman, yet she continued to be with her husband, and a child was born from whose genetic line Jesus would eventually be born. Even Jesus, who begged His father for mercy in Gethsemane, walked out into the garden to meet the soldiers when they came to arrest Him, and endured the cross even though He could have easily saved Himself.

Why did all these people go forward despite their misgivings, their pain, their fear? Because their joy was not predicated on their circumstances, but on the salvation they knew was coming. I see it too, on the horizon of every season of depression - rescue. Someday He will wipe away every tear. And meanwhile, I can REJOICE because, despite all appearances of this life, there is an inheritance imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for me.

Five Minute Friday