"But for joy, all is well, even in the midst of specific suffering and loss." ~Dallas Willard
I had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I took the entire week off, spent a lot of time with family, friends, church events. Sure, there were a couple of things that could have marred the week, but I was strangely able to move past them and focus on the blessings in my life.
The past two weeks have been in direct contrast with that week. One thing after another has pulled me down: a mess at work to clean up, involving serious phone calls from my district operations manager (who I am trying to impress, considering I want a promotion from her); the stress of the snow and ice and the havoc that creates here in Seattle, causing a whole lot of staff to not show up for work; my manager coming down sick and leaving me with a pending file that was out of control; a drunk, angry, overdrawn customer yelling and screaming in my branch and telling me that not only am I racist, but also Satan; and to top it off, a good friend going through one of the worst things a person can go through. Enough stuff for me to email a group of girls from church to pray for me because I didn't have the emotional strength to get through another awful day.
It's amazing how life and circumstances can change so quickly. Talk about the emotional rollercoaster. But my friend and pastor Leah replied to my email for prayer with Psalm 77, reminding me that "what god is so great as our God?" (v13). I spent some time reading that night from Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart, a wonderful book that I have been trying to get through for a couple of months (I'm a fast reader, but you can't read Willard quickly, he's too thought-provoking). The section I happened to be on was entitled "Joy" in a chapter on transforming the mind and feelings. Willard reminded me that joy is not passive, that we don't just acheive joy and then we never have to struggle with circumstances or negative feelings ever again. Joy takes work: we must actively choose to focus on God's love and faithfulness and the reality of His overwhelming desire for our good, which overcomes all circumstances.
Weeks like these remind me how hopeless life would be without Jesus. I was frustrated enough with my situation, but so many people go through struggles more insanely difficult than any I have ever experienced. And the only thing that keeps me going is remembering the grace of God in my life and the lives of those around me. Remembering that He has brought me through tough things before, and I have grown as a result, grown in my ability to persevere, to hope, and to share that hope. So I will join Dallas Willard in praying Psalm 92:4: "For Thou, O Lord, hast made me glad by what Thou has done, I will sing for joy at the works of Thy hands."