These are questions a fresh wave of challenges with my 10-year-old have pressed on my mind. As I wrestle to have more joy in the struggles—and to recognize it when it’s there—I’m finding it’s different than I used to think.
For me, joy is relief. It’s cool grace over a searing heart. It’s letting go of heavy burdens. And it’s something I never expected:
It turns out that one act on our part can bring joy faster than anything else: forgiveness.
Not distant forgiveness, although forgiving old offenses still gives relief.
Not half-hearted forgiveness of the “You cut me off on the freeway, but I forgive you” variety.
But forgiveness right smack in the middle of the “OUCH!” situation. Right as that onlooker tosses a careless comment about your kid over their shoulder. Right as the doctor blows off your concern about a new symptom. Right as the family member develops amnesia and insists you bring your child with SPD to a huge, noisy family gathering.
The amazing thing about forgiving in the midst of our own pain is this: it changes us.
Each time we’re hurt, but choose to forgive and seek forgiveness for our own part, we become stronger, more resilient, and a lot less stressed.
One of my favorite women in history proves this. A Christian during World War II, Corrie Ten Boom and her family helped hide Jews and others the Nazis sought to harm. For this act of courage and kindness, she earned time in a concentration camp, where her entire family was killed, including her precious sister. Years later, after giving a public talk in Munich one night, a man walked up to Corrie, thrust out his hand to shake hers, and asked for forgiveness. He’d been the one to kill her sister years before.
Here’s what Corrie Ten Boom says of that moment:
“Woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ …I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
Few, if any of us, can relate with Corrie’s painful circumstances. But we absolutely can relate to the moment a painful interaction walks in to our lives, stands face to face with us, and challenges us to either clam up in resentment or let go and have joy.
Where are you at with joy these days? Are you struggling with it? Are you living it?
I’m digging in to this search for joy over the next few months as I finish writing my book: Get Your Joy Back (Kregel Publications, 2014). and I’d love to hear your story… perhaps even share it in the book as a way to help others struggling to forgive and have more joy. If you’d like to find out more about this, please send me a note (click here).
Let’s press in to joy together, friends!