With a new baby, joy has been something heavily on my mind. It is an expected emotion when a tiny human is born and an anticipated aid to help you get through the difficult early days. But joy was not found in my earliest days with our little one and, alongside exploring what that means in terms of emotional health and wellbeing, I’ve also looked at what that means from a Biblical perspective.
“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” Proverbs 18:14
Having a joyful spirit is imperative when it comes to tackling the ups and downs of life. Without it, everything becomes crushingly overwhelming. I love the phrase Timothy Keller uses in ‘The Way of Wisdom‘ – ‘I need both a mind convinced by solid arguments and an imagination fired with the beauty of your character and story.’ This is how we pursue joy.
Finding time to read my Bible has been neither a priority nor, seemingly, a possibility, with a newborn, but without that spiritual input, my joy has only been lower. On my lowest days, my husband prayed with me often and encouraged me to be thankful for the small (‘baby steps’ if you please…) accomplishments in the day – from physical healing, getting laundry on or simply keeping our baby alive.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
It’s no coincidence that a central part of CBT and other talking therapies is training your mind to see the good in your day and being thankful. It’s right there in Paul’s letter. Recognising the beginning of a descent, catching it and acknowledging good things in the day, is a powerful tool. When I couldn’t see improvement, joy or anything to be thankful for, my discerning, patient husband would gently point out a few things and help me to see them clearly.
Proverbs is filled with acknowledgements that laughter may still have an aching heart and that grief and rejoicing are closely intertwined (14:13) – simple acknowledgements that no life is perfect or void of sadness, loneliness and confusion. Yet despite all of that, there can be joy and peace alongside the difficult emotions, when we remember the character of Yahweh and keep him at the centre through prayer, reading his word and giving thanks.