What do you think of when you hear the word “Joy?” What things come to mind?
I am learning that for me, happiness is fleeting, but Joy can be held on to—something that grows and lasts forever. Happiness is often focused on circumstances being right, but joy can be found even amid difficulty. I believe that this is because true joy comes from the Lord, and it is of the Lord. Just like Love, Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that is cultivated in me as I journey through my life as a follower of Jesus. I am given true joy through my faith in Him and the promises He holds for me, and I can “rejoice in the Lord always” as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians.
I experience great joy throughout my days as an assistant in L’Arche. First and foremost, I am joyful in knowing that God brought me back to L’Arche for His wonderful purposes and not my own. Landing back in the L’Arche Erie community last summer was very unexpected for me as I came to a crossroads in my career due to unforeseen personal challenges. Through my challenges, I have been watching Him at work in my life, and I am overjoyed. It is not at all what I had in mind, but I have seen Him making something beautiful out of my difficulties. I have seen Him providing for me in ways I was not able to imagine, and I have seen Him offer ultimate grace to me amidst my chaos. I hold onto this joy, and it strengthens my faith and hope in the Lord. THIS is JOY!
I also feel deep joy as I grow in relationship with the Core Members and Assistants in our home and in our community. The relationships that I foster, despite the ups and downs, are blessings that God gives me. This community that we can build is a gift that God graciously offers us as we journey through this life. As we explored in Part 1, community is essential to our human nature, and it also brings us true joy. THIS is JOY!
As we live life within our home, it is not in the successes that we find joy. It is not in the job “well done” or the extravagant dinner we create. It is in the time spent, the relationships fostered, and the moments shared that joy springs forth. It is found as we share life together, alongside one another, and with each other. THIS is JOY!
One thing that we enjoy so much at Hearts Garden is music! Whether we are singing and dancing to Ray’s favorite Backstreet Boys hit, listening to eighties with Garnet, singing a song of prayer before a meal or during worship, or singing Christmas carols while washing up, sharing music together brings us joy! It is a joy that is deeply rooted in our community together. THIS is JOY!
Additionally, I am often filled with hope and joy from my friend Ray. Recently Ray while talking with me about his disability, exclaimed to me, “I’ll have it until the day I die!” To my ears, I heard him say it in a way that offers him hope, and I know that he strives for joy. He often portrays the joy that he has for life and the hope that he holds onto. He has shown me how he believes that God has him—that God holds him in the palm of his hand. THIS is JOY!
Finally, as it is written in Nehemiah 8:10: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This true and forever-lasting joy can keep us going during our heavy-laden days on this earth. Even when we cannot see the good or the blessings in this life, we can still have joy! It can be fuel for our often-empty tanks that struggle up the hills of this life. True joy can fill us and nourish our souls. All we need to do is recognize the joy for what it is and embrace it.