For Christmas last year my sister gave me a “light up” joy sign. It was exactly what I wanted. A few weeks earlier I had signed up for a class at Home Depot to make a cute sign that had the word “joy” in lights. This was the sign I was SUPPOSED to make.
When I arrived for the class they had forgotten all about it. I guess I was the only one in all of west Houston that actually had signed up for the class. I called my sister and told her Home Depot had stolen my joy (haha!). My sister knew, when she saw a similar sign in Bed, Bath and Beyond, that she had to get it for me!
When I got the sign out of the attic with my Christmas decorations this year, it wouldn’t light up. Even after putting in new batteries I couldn’t get it to work. I tried fiddling with the bulbs and wires … but nothing seemed to help re-light my unlit joy sign.
I mentioned to a friend (who I am convinced can fix almost anything) and she said she would take a look at it. Ironically, at the same time as my sign wouldn’t light, my own real life joy was feeling much the same way.
Sometimes things seem to be going along just fine and then suddenly things feel upside down. A friend of mine says “joy isn’t always pretty” … and isn’t that the truth? Sometimes the lights just don’t shine. I think we often misinterpret “joyful” for happy. We can be sad and have joy but we can’t be sad and be happy. But joy absolutely doesn’t meant we might not be sad. Life often hurts, sometimes desperately . Disappointments, circumstances … all things which can rob of us our joy…if we let it.
The next day my friend sent me a picture of my joy sign … LIT up! She had fixed my sign! I couldn’t believe it. Inside the sign was a detached wire. She had to recruit her neighbor to solder the wire back together. She said it wasn’t a simple fix because they had to use melted metal. Her next text said … “well, it was simple in that it was only one small step, but it required a major tool”.
But then it shone! It worked! It lit up a dark room.
As I was thinking about my own situation, I was reminded that we have a “major tool” also. Our tool is to trust in the Lord. Trusting is so hard when we want to fix the situation. Trusting is so hard when things seem so wrong.
Kay Warren (pastor Rick Warren’s wife) lost a son to suicide when he was in his 20’s. She said this in her book about joy:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life. The quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right and that determined choice to praise God in every situation”.
That’s trusting. That’s peace. That’s joy.
Sometimes our joy is LIT UP … shining for all to see. Other times it is not as bright. It’s in those times we have to trust in the Lord and rest in the peace of knowing He sees us and knows our heartbreaks. Scripture even says He holds our tears. How beautiful is that?
People sometimes say “well, this must be God’s plan” or “this will make sense in heaven” … but to be honest, I kind of think what is going to make more sense in heaven is for God to say “Dear child, my heart broke too”.
I think those will be some of the most beautiful words some will ever hear.
So whether your joy is all LIT UP or not .. either way, we can trust in Him. In all things.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at an event in Houston where I shared about my Home Depot joy sign experience. Since that night I have gotten so many fun texts from friends telling me about places where they have found lit up joy. I've gotten pictures from all kinds of stores, front yards, the zoo and one lady even came up to me and introduced herself and said she had heard the story and asked if she could show me a pictures of the joy sign in her living room. Of course I absolutely loved it! But my most favorite text came from a dear friend who has literally had to fight for joy.
Her husband, who was the absolute love of her life, died almost seven months ago. She has told me she felt like her joy left when he died. She and her three teenage kids have been walking a road they never wanted or imagined walking. There are days she has to remind herself to breathe. One day recently she received some good news and texted me that she felt like throwing open her front door and yelling about her joy to the world, It was such a huge moment.
The next day she and one of her daughters went to Target and saw a light up joy sign. It was a display and when she asked about it they said it couldn't be sold. Not taking no for an answer, she asked for a manager. She told him she really needed that joy sign and thankfully (bless him!), he let her buy it. The best part is that she hung it over her front door. The house that wasn't even going to have Christmas lights now has beautiful lights. It really is as if she is yelling to all who pass by ... "there is still joy!". It's not the same joy. Days are hard and holidays are harder. But she fought and is fighting and is trusting day to day.
Look how beautiful her joy is:
John 16:22 says “Now is your time of grief but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy.”
That is eternal, everlasting, LIT UP joy.