For many Americans and people across the globe, this is a frequently asked question these days, “Where’s the Joy?” We live in challenging times – folks face a myriad of sufferings from worries about our country to family/personal health issues and loss of a loved one. Concerns about children, finances and world stability cause many to wake up with this looming question pressing on their minds.
As we approach a time in the calendar year when many seem to find joy all around them, others are struggling in silence. Our family is approaching the second holiday season without our beloved mother Joan. Her gentle spirit and light filled presence weigh heavily on my heart and soul each day, it’s as if a part of me is missing. I find myself thinking about what she would say about the state of our world and the challenge of finding JOY everyday, despite the obvious struggles of life. After some time thinking and praying about her and the way in which she lived her life, the answer came to me, as clear and as beautiful as the first snow of winter.
Mom would offer sage advice that joy is found in the ordinary aspects of our daily life. She would remind me that we don’t need to go looking far for it as it can be found in the kind words of a good friend or embrace of a loving dad. She would counsel me to think about the gift of our family – my siblings and their families, my beautiful husband and children and realize that I have much to be joyful about – every day. Regarding sufferings that accompany every human life she would share “Suffering leads us to God – don’t shy away from it. When we are low, God pulls us close. If we stay with Him during our time of trial, despite our desperate feelings, we will slowly evolve into more loving and compassionate people of faith whom God has created us to be. Doing the will of God sometimes involves the acceptance of enormous pain. But He never leaves us alone to bear it.”
I can almost see her radiant face, brilliant brown eyes and kind smile looking at me while she lovingly shares these wise words. How I miss the sound of her voice – the smell of her perfume and the crooked tilt of her left-handed script. But, she taught me that those who go home to God are truly present to us. They are with us and “swimming in an ocean of love.” While it may be difficult for us to believe or even to experience this, I think we have to make an act of faith and trust in this truth. Only then will we unlock the potential of their spirits working miracles in our lives through God’s grace.
A good friend reminded me today “you can ask for JOY, God is waiting to hear from you – just ask.” My Mom would love that advice. I think we all need to ask for JOY these days, to look for it in the ordinary events and to give thanks for all the blessings that come our way. I also think we need to accept suffering and trust that God is with us – Mom did that her entire life and the result was a woman of deep faith who exuded goodness, light and love to everyone she met, especially during the last 3 years while she battled cancer. Her life made a profound difference and she brought JOY to countless souls who will forever be changed for the better because of her.
For all those loving and missing a special person this holiday season, fear not. Please know you are not alone – pray to and for your loved one and ask them to be with you. Make an act of faith! Pray also to God – who never, ever leaves our side. That’s what Joanie would do!