Happiness is unsustainable – but we know that because it never lasts. Happiness is illusive – but we know that because the more we chase it the less we get, or unwind what we have. Adrenaline junkies hunt the next big thing because the last big thing is over. Yet that work, cost, and sacrifice to reach what’s next depletes its pleasure.
Life is like a kitchen and a hard circumstance is like the hot griddle in front of us. To salve our displeasure we add water – but that water is vaporized before it is enjoyed, and that steam seems to burn us more. We rinse and repeat, but we can never overcome the omnipotence of the heat.
Over in the breakfast nook God is enjoying his tea and looking at us. He tilts is head curiously, watching us put water on the griddle. The griddle is hot. We’re wearing a chef’s hat. And, while we are wanting to turn down the heat, God wants us to start cooking.
Joy, lexically similar to happiness, is nothing like happiness. In our story joy is a cool breeze from the nearby window; it helps us bear the heat. Nobody expects a chef to change the weather. But nobody stops him from enjoying its coolness and beauty. The griddle gets hotter, the weather is unchanged.
Joy is sustainable – it endures irrespective of what is going on because they are not connected. Joy is not illusive – when we seek it, we find it to be omnipresent. And like an aged woman in a You Tube video, we can see joy is common, and blooms even in the presence of sorrow, paucity, and ill health.
There are three pillars to joy: gratitude, contentment, and faith (or hope). These buttresses of joy are knotty things that unveil the work of God in and around us, repeal our disinhibiting hubris, and imbue us with (of all things) happiness – perhaps a better word is gladness.
Oxymoronically, gladness doesn’t always come with a smile; sometimes it makes us cry. And, yes, sometimes it makes us smile – even if it is through tears.
Joy - the culmination of gratitude (past), contentment (present), and faith (future) - isn't kindred to our circumstance. It doesn't have anything to do with this moment; it isn't tied to it; and, it isn't impacted by it. Rather, it influences who we are, which resultantly influences this moment.
Perhaps the better circle of life is where we allow the goodness in the panoply of our life to influence individual moments to be better in that bigger and more meaningful context – and not to allow individual circumstance(s) to conclude whether or not life itself is good, and cripple us.
Coming from a life of pain and trial, it would be easy to be bitter and worn down. Yet, María's words speak of trust, change, and hope. Be inspired by the faith of this woman who has seen God's redemption firsthand.