I’ve been deeply moved by the stories of joy shared by real, passionate, faithful women in the workplace in the midst of suffering this month as we explore the topic of “joy.” This has been a struggle for my own family as my daughter, Annie, has dealt with chronic, excruciating pain day after day for over three years.
I’ve shared how I’ve had to adjust my priorities in order to be present and available for Annie over the past few years, from traveling to clinics and appointments as we seek answers to her pain to simply being there for a foot rub when her pain spikes. It’s been a grueling season for us as we’ve been on our knees seeking healing for Annie.
But above all, when I think back on these last three and a half years, what stands out the most is Annie’s joy in the midst of her suffering. From the outside, it seems like a miracle that Annie could feel any amount of joy when she struggles with daily pain and fatigue. But she is truly an example of finding joy despite her circumstances, and her joy has brought me joy time and again.
Here is what I have learned from Annie’s struggle about how to find true joy:
Finding joy in the promise of eternity
Annie knows that regardless of how long her pain lasts, she will experience freedom from pain and suffering in eternity. Psalm 65 is a beautiful Psalm that talks about the joy we find in God’s presence and in His crazy love for us. Annie and I have peace knowing that joy can come even in the midst of pain on earth, and that one day everyone who follows the Lord will have relief from pain and suffering forever.
Finding joy in loving and serving others
Annie has an incredible gift of being able to pour herself out for others even in the midst of her greatest pain. Earlier this month, a couple who have become close family friends were visiting from Houston. Annie surprised our friend Vince with a plate of brownies and that small gift brought her so much joy. Then, Annie made a beautiful bouquet for her close friend who just got engaged. Galatians 5:13 calls us to serve one another in love. Despite Annie’s pain, she finds small ways to bless others and bring joy to their lives, which brings joy to everyone around her.
Finding joy in relationships
We are blessed to have a wide circle of family and friends loving and supporting Annie. Annie’s friend Adam became her primary caregiver almost two years ago, and his family have become like family to us. He came right when Annie needed him most. Phillipians 4:19 promises that “God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Annie’s friends and family have been a lifeline throughout her battle with pain, and God has used them to meet all our needs and more.
Finding joy through prayer
We would not have survived this season of Annie’s pain without prayer - our own prayers, and the prayers of thousands of others friends and even strangers all over the world. Prayer is powerful! Annie has been struggling with a spike in her pain throughout a new therapy this month, and I’ve been praying fervently for a good night’s sleep for her. Then, one of the greatest answers to prayer came: Annie slept for seven hours for the first time in months! Seeing this answer to prayer filled me with so much joy, and brought Annie joy as rest helped restore her physically and emotionally. We believe the words of 1 John 5: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
This month may seem heavy as we explore what it means to find joy in the midst of pain, grief, and suffering. But we know that pretending everything is fine is the worst way to find joy. We believe God’s Word when He says to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We don’t experience joy because our circumstances are happy and free of stress or worry. We experience true joy when we see God at work in our lives through our circumstances, and that joy sustains us and draws those around us to Him.
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