Lately, I’ve been struggling with missing my husband, and feeling homesick for heaven. I know God expects us to look forward to our heavenly home, but I am also aware that He gives His children tasks to complete and a journey to finish before going home. I am at odds with my impatience. Am I disobedient by experiencing this unsettle-ness in my spirit? These thoughts have been circling my conscience for the past few days, like vultures looking for signs of life leaving its prey, ready to attack any resemblance of hope.
Happiness is a feeling that is influenced by our circumstances, and most of the time, these conditions are out of our control. However, our feelings do not have to rule our lives. I am learning it’s okay to experience unhappiness. God does not expect me to be happy all of the time. He is teaching me that I must look to Him for all of my needs, and that includes control over my emotions.
As a Christian, I understand that happiness is never promised by God. In fact, He tells us that we will experience struggles in our life here on Earth. Even though this sounds bleak, what He does promise us is much better. It is a promise of joy, everlasting joy, and that is much deeper than a feeling. True joy is not influenced by our circumstances. It’s only found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the eternal joy that never leaves us.
Job – A Story of Joy Restored
The Book of Job provides a clear example of the journey from grief to joy. I read Job three months after Rodney went home to Jesus. Throughout most of my time spent in this Old Testament book, I wondered why I was reading such a depressing account. I should have been poring over Psalms, I thought. Then God showed me why I was drawn to Job’s story. Although God’s response to Job’s questions may appear harsh in the beginning, His explanation of His sovereign power is exactly what Job needed to hear. So did I. Chapters 1 to 38 is an abysmal display of suffering and ridicule. This poor man loses his children, his health, and his wealth. His friends misjudge him by declaring his circumstances are a result of his sin.
After his friend Elihu concludes that Job must be sinful in his heart, God responds to Job in a whirlwind. But what did God do first? He declares His sovereignty over all of creation. He does not provide comfort for Job right away. First, He reminds Job of His power, His might, and His majesty. He tells Job to prepare himself because He is about to question him. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God proclaims! Question after question, God challenges Job to acknowledge His power. He continues to give him examples from His creation by describing
the behemoth on land and the Leviathan of the seas. That’s how big our God is. Imagine the most powerful entity in the universe. Then consider for a moment that God spoke that into existence. By His mere words He created all of the heavens and the earth. Every planet, star, ocean, and mountain.
By chapter 42, Job’s heart is no longer full of grief. It’s full of repentance for doubting God’s ability or willingness to help him. His response – “I have heard You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You.” I believe Job is saying that God is no longer just words found in scriptures, but he now sees God’s handiwork all around him, and he is remorseful for doubting Him. A key passage for me in this chapter is verse 10 – And the Lord restored Job’s losses when He prayed for His friends. I clung to that verse. I made it my task to push through the grief and look for ways to help others. I was able to allow for God’s healing to take place by looking beyond my own circumstance. Only by acknowledging His true character as the God of all Creation can the grief begin to heal in our hearts.
As with Job, there can be circumstances which can separate us from the awareness of our joy, especially in deep periods of grief. This does not mean our joy is fleeting. When Rodney died, I could not sense that joy deep within my soul as I had before, but God replaced that sense of Joy with the quiet, resolute assurance that I would recognize it again. He walked with me through this dark period, and He did restore my joy. Slowly, bit by bit, until one day I realized the dark time of obscurity in grief was over. This did not mean I was “happy” or that I would not continue to grieve, but it meant that I was no longer in need of that reassurance from Him that joy was still there. That keen awareness of the joy of my salvation was restored. Today, as I struggle with sadness, I am comforted by the truth of God’s Word. I am so thankful that God used the story of Job to guide my healing, and my own circumstances to teach me the difference in temporary happiness, and eternal joy.