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THE DANGER OF CHOOSING JOY


January has always been a difficult month for me, sometimes for specific reasons, sometimes not, and this year is no different. Maybe it's part of that whole seasonal affective disorder thing. I wouldn't be surprised, given that Minnesota becomes a frozen hell for a couple months every year, and yet so many of us still live here.

This particular January, I've been considering more in depth how my word of the year, Abide, applies to all the different things we might experience in a given calendar year, including that odd "winter blues" sensation that tends to come around when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter. What I've been pondering is how maybe these valleys we find ourselves descending into are just another place God challenges us to remain in for a time, something I've been learning with this year's theme of Abide. Maybe you're supposed to be in this low point for a while, and maybe that's okay.


MAYBE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THIS LOW POINT FOR A WHILE, AND MAYBE THAT'S OKAY.


Often in Christianity, we make the distinction between joy and happiness by saying that while we won't always be happy, there is still an underlying sense of joy that we can find in all circumstances. I believe this is true, but I also think people have muddied expectations for what that joy is supposed to look like, often wrongly assuming it should look like happiness, implying that as Christians, we should still appear to be happy all the time. There's even a popular hashtag on Instagram, usually used for Christian content, #choosejoy. I think we might be missing the point.


WE'VE TURNED JOY INTO OUR SPIRITUAL NARCOTIC OF CHOICE.


Though we might actually know and understand what joy is supposed to be in our heads, the way we talk about joy seems to show a profound misconception of what it actually is. We're too quick to jump to a conversation about joy when someone tells us they're struggling with something, telling them that despite whatever they might be experiencing, the joy of the Lord is with them. This might be true, but I think it actually causes us to try skipping over crucial seasons of life that God doesn't want us to erase simply by uttering joy. I don't think joy is meant to be the universal panacea for whatever life circumstances might be ailing us at the time. In all honesty, I think we've turned this false idea of joy into our spiritual narcotic of choice, using it to numb any and all pain that can't be instantly alleviated, and this is dangerous and toxic because it feeds into the idea that if you're a good Christian, you won't or shouldn't experience pain or suffering, an idea that while sounding ridiculous when you put it that way, is something so many of us have already bought into. 

There's so much stigma in Christian culture surrounding mental illness and even just the inevitable rough patches all of us will surely stumble upon, the pervasive line of thought being that you just have to pray hard enough or you just have to believe enough and God will immediately take away any and all hardship in your life. And if whatever you're going through isn't resolved with intensive prayer, you must be doing something wrong. This is madness.


THERE WILL BE HIGHS AND LOWS, AND GOD WANTS US TO EXPERIENCE BOTH FULLY.


If we look at the Old Testament, we see both the highs and lows illustrated beautifully across the Psalms and the book of Lamentations. Seriously, there is an ENTIRE BOOK of the Bible dedicated solely to lamenting. This is the way life is supposed to work. There will be highs and there will be lows, and I think God wants us to experience both of them fully. We weren't created to have only mountain top experiences of God's love and glory. Even if we know and believe 1000% that God is good and faithful and has already overcome, we can still experience the fullness of the valleys and lows, and I think He wants us to. Even Jesus did when He wept over Lazarus' death, just minutes before resurrecting him.

This is what God has been teaching me about Abiding lately, as I'm sitting here in a valley asking Him what I'm supposed to be learning. Perhaps it's just this singular revelation that we're designed to experience both the highs and lows of life to the fullest extent. Perhaps there'll be other things to learn too. I'm not really sure, but for now, I'll just be abiding here in this valley until He should choose to lead me out of it.

What are your thoughts on these reflections of mine? Are you sitting and trying to abide in any low points right now? Let me know in the comments below!


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