I love being around high-school students because they haven’t quite learned how to make their emotions “presentable.” I often find myself telling high-school girls that adults experience the same exact things they do: discouragement, betrayal, confusion, doubt, fear, and frustration. The only difference between an adult experiencing these things and a high-schooler is that, as an adult, I am able to mask it all more effectively. The struggle, the angst, the tangled web of emotions, the heartache that they experience as teenagers isn’t just a result of the fact that they are in a period called adolescence. It’s a result of being a broken, sinful human in a broken, sinful world; whether you’re 90 or 9, suffering is real, the struggle in this world is real.
2009 was the year grief began to hit our family. That is the year the miscarriages began (back to back to back) that brought everything I thought I knew crashing down. Before 2009, I had answers for everything. I had eloquent prayers for every situation anyone could ever face. In fact, I often received praise for my ability to pray so eloquently. I was eager to offer counsel and prayers for others in their grief. Mostly because of compassion….but also because I thought I knew.
We sat across the table from one another, casually chatting about life and school. She said something about how she was having a hard time because of what everyone thought about her.
“Well, what do people think of you?” I asked.
My eyes met hers just as she was moving her gaze back down to her plate and quickly out the window.
“My daughter is pregnant.” The text about a friend’s unwed teenage daughter felt like a punch in the stomach. I was undone. I was also hopeful though; I know how God loves to take the most broken situations and turn them into the most beautiful. So I crafted a text back, one that I thought would be encouraging. After I hit the send button, I knew it was wrong. It was too formulaic, too light, not enough of me entering into her pain.
I think I do a pretty good job of hiding behind my sense of humor, but those that know me well know I’m–on the inside–a melancholy, introspective kind of person that thinks, cares, and lives too deeply. It’s my nature as a “realist” not to look on the bright side of things but rather to think through what might happen if I were never to reach the bright side. I’m prone to depression; I must always be reminded that things aren’t “so bad.”
So, when I’m told to “choose joy,” I wonder if joy is actually a choice. I wonder, how does one go about choosing joy?