Happiness is the Enemy of Joy
Four years ago, we had an infant son, lots of bills, and way too much busyness. I remember one morning well. It was a fairly typical day for us: keeping an eye on the baby, while I edited photos and Lindsey cooked breakfast.
During those days, I was working lots of overtime and she was working tirelessly to keep the house clean, meals cooked, and the baby happy. For a long time, avoided stressful topics and each other as much as possible.
Lindsey wasn't complaining about my busyness and disengagement at home because she didn't want to add to my stress. I hadn't been open about my frustrations because I felt she was very fragile.
The avoidance worked for a while. Until it didn't work any more.
We had been stuffing our suitcases full of disappointment and frustration for far too long and the latches finally blew. We unloaded on each other. Emotional vomit spewed everywhere.
Cancelled plans with friends.
It was one of those arguments.
Life with a new baby can be smothering when you have no idea what you're doing and you believe the lie that your goal in marriage is to make each other happy. After the tears had fallen, the cussing stopped, and the dust began to settle, we hugged. Then we prayed. And decided the best thing to do was get out of the house.
At Veteran's Park, we walked and talked and held hands as we pushed the stroller. This was the same park where we had our first date, all those years before. It was nostalgic and comforting for both of us. As we made our way up the slight incline, near a large wooden swing, she squeezed my hand and said, "Happiness is the enemy of joy".
For the next half mile, we didn't speak. I pondered and processed, my eyebrows furrowed as I tried to figure out exactly what my deep and mystical wife meant.
Looking back on those days, I am beginning to grasp what Lindsey meant. Jesus never promised us a life of happiness and ease. Actually, he promised something very different. "In this life, you will have troubles." He went on to promise to send us a Comforter, willing walk through the storms of life with us.
Storms suck. You get beat up, tossed around, and left wondering what the heck just happened?
But in the midst of it all, with tear-stained cheeks and broken hearts, my wife reminded me it is possible to still find joy. Constant, unshakeable, unspeakable, irreplaceable joy.
Just last week, our pastor said, "God is unchangeable, which is why He is able to change us." It's true. God is my constant. My life changes, my stresses change, and good and bad flow in and out of my life, like the tides, but God is my Rock. When I can count on nothing else, I can count on God.
I find my Hope in the fact that God is unchanging.
It has been said that Hope is an anchor for the soul. And I think Joy is the rope that secures us. Joy isn't always smiles and bright eyes. Joy is a connector. Through Scripture, Sacraments, and my local faith community, Joy connects me back to the Hope that steadies me when the seas begin to swell and I feel tossed and tumbled by waves of anxiety.
With God's love at the center of my life, Hope anchors my soul to the Rock of Christ Jesus. Happiness comes and goes because life was not ever promised to be carefree. But the joy I have found in Jesus never fails.