Doing Life Together

person-835453_1920Recently, I was on a Christian radio program. The hosts asked, “Can someone who struggles with mental health issues have joy?” And I thought, “Great question, because joy is not the same as happiness.”

Mental health disorders are widely misunderstood in the church. This set of emotions, cognitions and behaviors that cause distress and impairment  are part of our brokenness after the Fall. A person’s genetics interacting with other non-gentic factors like trauma and the environment can place a person at risk for mental health disorders. But even if we struggle to overcome anxiety or trauma, joy is possible in the middle of the struggle.

Happiness is a cultural goal. It is not promised in the Bible, but joy is a promise. Happiness depends on circumstances which are often out of our control. But joy does not.

CS Lewis explained joy as  “an unsatisfied desire which itself is more desirable than any other satisfaction” (Joy, 18). He specifically differentiated joy from happiness and pleasure, saying that “Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them [Happiness and Pleasure]; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again” (Joy, 18). Lewis goes on to say that joy is a “signpost along life’s journey as a way glimpse of our ultimate joy of living with Christ.” It involves a deep longing put inside each of us. It can be experienced by the beauty of a sunrise, a beam of light in the darkness, etc.

In Scripture, we are told that joy comes in the morning. It is through a commitment to our faith, a recognition that Christ is with us no matter the trial that divine joy springs up, a spiritual experience of gratitude and overwhelming thankfulness. I have felt that type of joy even in the middle of struggle and trauma.

Scripture tells us that, “In your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11). Stay in His presence and there will be moments of joy that transcend your daily struggles. We may not be happy every day, but the joy of serving Christ and the contentment we can feel knowing we are His is worth so much more than something that depends on circumstances.

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