We are a Joyful People
We are called to be a joyful people, not because we are always happy or that things always go our way, but because we are children of God and He loves us with a never ending love. Christians in the early Church had great joy and that joy was infectious, people were compelled to become Christians because of their love even though being a Christian meant that your life could be in danger. Love is expressed in how we live our lives and in how we show the joy that is within us as Children of God.
I think we could all agree that living a life filled with Joy is easier when we only have to worry about ourselves. In fact this is the first step towards leading a joyful life. We as individuals have an easier time keeping our eyes focused on Christ during the storms, when we get married our focus sometimes shifts to our spouse, when we have kids, that focus may move to the children. When our gaze is not fixed on Christ, we may get focused on the stormy sea as St. Peter did when he was walking on the water. It was only when he took his eyes off of Christ that he began to sink.
Family life is a joy, it is how God designed for us to achieve sanctity. It is filled with joys (new births, loving children, companionship with other members of the family) and sorrows (loss of loved ones, disobedient children, money issues, etc). How do we in the midst of the ups and downs of family life maintain our Christian Joy?
The Trials of Life
We are currently walking a tough road with my father in law who is suffering with terminal cancer. This is a source of great sorrow for our family, but we have not lost our joy. If we maintain our joy it is a powerful sign to those we know that our hope is not in this world, but in the one to come. It is a sign that our faith is in something greater than our own good health, it is a sign that we believe in the promise of everlasting life with Jesus in heaven. We are sorrowful, but this does not diminish our joy, each of us in our family has made a decision to trust in the Lord and look to him for our strength in the midst of great sorrow. In the beatitudes Jesus said blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted. Many are confused by how someone who is mourning can be blessed since it is such a dark time in their lives. But the beauty behind mourning is that, wherever there is deep mourning their is deep love. It is a comfort to my family to know that, while we are suffering and mourning about the impending loss of our father/grandfather, we know that he is greatly loved by us.
How to Maintain Joy Amidst Suffering
Our joy is based on a hope in the Lord. A hope in something more than humanity, a hope in eternal life and eternity in heaven with the Lord. We recently experienced a tragic loss of a family friend and a prominent member of our homeschool community. Her death was senseless, completely unexpected and a shock to everyone that knew her. She was a mentor to our children, more than a choir director, she was a friend and a motherly figure that took a deep interest in each young person that she taught to sing and love music. How can we find joy in this very tragic situation, we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord and his promises that he is the way to eternal life. O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting.
We are an Easter people, we live with the resurrection in clear sight, He is risen, He is truly risen and we will rise with him on the last day. Until that time, we must trust in his mercy and providence to see us through the hard times and rejoice in the blessing he bestows throughout our lives.