Whew! I am exceptionally tired today. It’s the good kind of tired, like after you’ve done a crazy new workout that pushed you to your max, or after you’ve had a whirlwind day and moved lots of things around at seven months pregnant. 😉 I am not very good at having physical limitations, but I think with this one, I’ve met my match. I’ll have to give in a little to the truth and still find joy in it when it’s hard. This concept has been weighing on my heart a lot these days.
I’m ok with so many things about pregnancy, and honestly, after as badly as I wanted to be pregnant again, I really want to be able to embrace everything that pregnancy brings with it. Every time I feel a little complaint coming on, I think of the times I’ve not been pregnant and wished I were. I think of the time I was pregnant and then we lost baby #2. And more than anything, I think of my friends and family who have wanted so much to be pregnant and haven’t been able. Complaining about something I’ve wanted and prayed for just doesn’t feel right. And it doesn’t seem fair to other people’s hearts, and it doesn’t feel honoring to God or to this process.
Still, and with anything, there are days when the grass feels greener. We can all be too hard on ourselves, feeling guilty about getting the things we’ve wanted, or about the things we’ve wanted coming with some difficulty, too. It can feel shameful to admit that the good things are still hard, or to say that what we’ve wanted isn’t turning out exactly how we pictured it.
But I think if we don’t ever concede that things are harder than we thought they’d be, or that as much as we’re grateful, we’re still struggling through, we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection that just isn’t attainable.
Of course the good things in life can still be hard. And of course the hard things in life can still be good.
As I work through the days of this pregnancy that have been harder than I’d like and met with more limitation than I hoped, I recognize all the more that there’s one key element to my response in the face of adversity that makes all the difference. And if I don’t get this part right, I truly feel like I could miss the boat on the very biggest, very best, most challenging, and most formative experiences in my life (including pregnancy and childbirth, days caring for a newborn and all of the days that come after).
That element is joy. When the going gets hard, do I have joy? And if I don’t have joy, why not? And if I want joy and don’t have it, where can I find it?
The most pleasant people in my life are ones who embrace joy and keep it, unwaveringly so, in the midst of the good and bad and hard and beautiful. Their joy is a constant, and it’s detectable whether things are perfectly perfect or falling apart. They are still honest about how they’re feeling and not afraid to say that things are difficult, but they do not despair or ever lose all hope. These people offer life wherever they go. I hope that I land in this category more often than not, and that I will get better and better at choosing joy as I mature as a person and in my faith in the time to come.
The most challenging relationships I keep are with those who do not embrace joy and put it on each day as something they’ve been freely given; no matter how good or lovely or blessed their circumstances become, there is always something to grumble about and always something wrong. Joy might be a concept to them, but it is not a reality. The transformative power of joy is not evident as fruit in their lives. I don’t want to be someone who camps in this place.
I do want to be someone who can summon joy in the toughest of spaces–not because my circumstances dictate my disposition, but because my faith in God is keeping me on course. I want to have hope when things seem hopeless, and to be light to others when things feel dark.
The only way I can do this with any consistency is to keep my eyes on the Truth; hope in eternity and a desire to be more like Christ both offer me joy. Trusting that God sees me and knows me and loves me more than I can fathom offers me joy, too.
Choosing to make an effort each day to serve God in the ways I feel He’s calling me results in automatic joy. If my heart is after Him, then the opportunity to be in His will is a joyful thing. Maybe that’s while I’m navigating dynamics with an emotional child in one moment and embracing hard parts of pregnancy the next. Maybe that’s clearing out clutter to make room for what matters, or connecting with someone who’s been on my mind. These are all sources of joy if I allow them to be.
For me, joy is a matter of dying to self by remembering God and considering others. When I do these things, the fulfilling reality of Christ in me becomes my focus and my reward. My heart is not focused on the momentary inconvenience then, but rather the long term benefit or growth that will inevitably evolve as a byproduct of a joyful spirit.
I may be tired and sore, but I am also grateful. And gratitude changes my vantage point, allowing me to see and appreciate limitations in a new way. If I want it to be, the hard can be good. And I want it to be. I really, really do.
blessed to reap the benefits of joy tonight–an achy body and a peaceful heart,