The longer I sat through the Church service, the more miserable I felt.

Joy had been a stranger to me for quite awhile. I felt like I’d been robbed of it. God’s goodness was becoming a foreign concept to me. The last thing I wanted was to listen someone drone on and on about it.

The message was about the power of God that lives in us. The preacher reminded us that we hold the same power as Christ did on Earth. We need to be in sync with the Holy Spirit so that we can live life to the fullest measure God intended for us.

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was done carrying this weight with me.

Each anecdote he gave felt like a reminder of how I was the antithesis of a good, thriving Christian. Life had been so hard up to that point. I was dealing with so much disappointment and everything seemed meaningless.

Then, right on cue, the preacher started to shout. “Your life is not that bad. Look at the things that God has given you! Whether you feel like it or not, your life IS good!”

Maybe that worked for someone in the congregation, but not for me.

CHIN UP, CHILD

I couldn’t see how life was good. All this sadness. All this loneliness. I was struggling to hold it all together. Every part of me felt vulnerable, raw, tender.

My heart was breaking. I was so uncomfortable and was dying to get out of there. But I couldn’t. I kept my head low as the tears flowed. I never liked to cry in public, or in church. I didn’t want an audience to my unravelling.

As the preacher concluded his sermon, I felt God lifting my chin. The same way a father might to a child with her head hung low in shame. Then I heard the preacher say, “Come on everyone. Declare freedom over every area of your life where you have felt robbed; over every sickness, every disease. Know who is in you.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!”

I’ve learnt that every day I have to make a choice. Every day I have to dig a fresh grave for sadness, and ask for His unspeakable joy.

I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was done carrying this weight with me. I decided: I was going to take back what had been stolen from me. I placed both my hands over my heart and asked God to restore in me the joy I had lost. I declared freedom from the cycle of sadness that had been weighing like chains around my ankles.

My heart was finally letting some light in.

JOY IS A DAILY COMMITMENT 

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:22-24)

While happiness rides on pleasure, joy is independent of circumstances. Joy isn’t a feeling or an emotion. It’s a conscious decision. It surpasses all understanding; it doesn’t make sense but it is secure in something bigger than myself.

I admit I don’t have it all figured out. Some days the heaviness is hard to shake off. All I know is that the moment I finally opened my heart to the One who had been knocking, I felt a door unlock within me. Out went my self-pity and in came peace.

I’ve learnt that every day I have to make a choice. Every day I have to dig a fresh grave for sadness, and ask for His unspeakable joy – for my mourning to turn into dancing (Psalm 30:11). Every day I have to die to myself; my worries, my baggage and my hurts.

Now where did I put those dancing shoes?