Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
~ Romans 12:12
Nearly ten years ago I encountered a serious period of depression. While I am not someone who normally gets depressed, I am aware of the symptoms as I have a family member who suffers regularly from depression. I understand that we all "get down," at times, but depression itself is something that can completely change a person's outlook, decision making skills, and overall personality.
Mine came after a serious illness. While visiting a therapist, he suggested that I look for something that brought me "joy," and take a picture of it with my phone and then bring it into his office. We would then talk about what it was about the photo that brought me joy. At first, I really seemed to have to "look," for something that would then become the photo that we would discuss. After a few months, I began realizing that there were many things that actually brought me joy. My photos contained images that included bumper stickers that made me smirk, a flower pushing its way through the crack in concrete, to my dog laying on my lap. I also learned that joy could be found in both large and small things.
While the exercise turned into a daily habit for me (I still go out as part of my morning routine and often will take a picture of something that moves me to an attitude of joy), I realize that choosing joy does not mean to choose feelings that make me "happy," or some artificial feeling where I simply smile to hide what I'm really feeling. Seeking joy involves simple steps that bring us to a different place in our life.
It involves more than singing, "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart."
Sometimes finding joy takes intentional eyes. Sometimes it takes more than prayer.
Years ago Henri Nouwen wrote, "People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness."
Even when we walk in the, "valley of the shadow of death," I am reminded that there exists light to cast the shadow.
May the joy of the Lord, be our strength! Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.