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25 March 2021
Choosing joy, even in the toughest times of life
Words Jessica Morris
I realised I had discovered joy when I was serving someone pasta. I was a waitress at the time, and my workplace was full of chaos and stress. I knew it well, because as someone who lives with chronic anxiety, I had been told multiple times that my best wasn’t good enough.
It wasn’t an ideal environment for experiencing joy – or even some sort of fleeting happiness for a job well done! And it definitely wasn’t what I wanted for my life – I had big dreams that went beyond taking people’s orders and smelling like pizza 24/7. But late at night, when I went home from a work shift, these goals felt far away. Hours of criticism, discontent and fear would come out in tears.
But, as I soon found out, that is the place where joy grows – in the wastelands of life.
Back to my pasta story.
I couldn’t tell you exactly what type of pasta dish I was serving that day, only that there were 20 options on the menu and I had to remember them all. Thankfully, the couple I served didn’t care about the pasta – they cared about me. And I knew, because as I served them, they said, “Doesn’t she have a wonderful smile?”
You’re right, most people don’t speak to wait staff like that. But I knew this couple – we were acquaintances from church. In fact, one of them had been my school counsellor when I was diagnosed with severe depression years earlier. In some way, they knew about the darkness I had, and was, overcoming. And with these simple words, they called out strength and joy in me that I had forgotten existed.
In that moment, I felt like my spirit transformed from a shrivelled succulent to a blooming desert flower. I was reminded that I could be a light in the dark places of this world – and that I was not defined by the circumstances I lived in.
I was strong. I was hope-filled. I had joy.
And that is why I know what joy is. It’s not moments of happiness, feelings of merriment, or a positivity that denies the struggles we are facing; it is a gift from God, that sustains us in the desert.
In the Bible, there is a book called Psalms, which is full of poetry and songs. It speaks about knowing God, saying, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy” (chapter 16, verse 11).
The day I discovered joy, I had no idea what the path of my life looked like. I just knew I had to survive. But I knew the life-saving power of Jesus, and I knew I was living for a purpose – and that meant that even when I was unhappy, there was still joy in me. And it was enough joy to overflow into the lives of the people around me.
So, instead of chasing happiness, I’m going to keep looking for joy. Because even in the harshest seasons of life, while we deal with a pandemic, delayed dreams, disappointments and illness, it is always there. Joy is popping up through the cracks of the desert floor to remind us that God is with us. Even here.