For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Ephesians 2:10
Joy and our identities are foundationally linked.
Joy begins to escape us when we are not able to see ourselves clearly through our Creator’s eyes.
After experiencing loss or trauma, we may come out of it with a lack of identity and confusion. We can start to derive our worth from our accomplishments, others’ views of us, or any number of things that don’t point to our true worth.
This is a signal that healing still needs to take place in order to align our hearts and minds to how our Creator views us. (More on trauma + lack of identity in a later blog post)
For me, there have been a number of significant points in my adult life where I came to the realization that I was experiencing an identity crisis due to traumatic events. It took me awhile to realize it and it resulted in a lot of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. I noticed I was having conflicting thoughts, insecurities, general confusion, and a lack of direction. I couldn't figure out exactly the root of it and couldn't shake the feeling. It took a process of healing and praying and seeking God to really get to the bottom of it.
In seasons of loss or trauma, we experience a sort of dissolution. We are left trying to pick up the broken pieces of our hearts and minds and put ourselves back together in a state of vulnerability. It is at this vulnerable point that we are susceptible to believing lies about ourselves and can fall into coping mechanisms that delay our healing. (More on this in a future blog)
A stable sense of identity means being able to see yourself as the same person in the past, present, and future. When trauma occurs, this is all but impossible. From flashbacks, to PTSD, to shattered self-esteem, stability is non-existent. Without a strong identity, change can add another layer of trauma.
Webster's Dictionary defines an identity crisis as, “a personal psycho-social conflict that involves confusion about one's social role and often a sense of loss of continuity to one's personality.” Inner conflict is present and there is a sort of searching in the dark for who you are.
By continuously excavating through our anxieties and trials for His face, we grow in faith and dwell in joy.
There is one thing we can be sure of one thing: God will never punish us with evil.
Sometimes, because of the free will that we are given as humans, things happen to us and around us that are outside our control. This is not a punishment, but the result of a world that has fallen from Eden.
Our Creator is good. In every situation. He suffers with us in all things and brings comfort when we are at our absolute lowest.
Giving thanks and gratitude in the middle of the storm is a way to produce a well of joy. Through worship of the Creator, this creates space for joy and pushes out fear.
This scripture has been the foundation of my life as of a couple years ago. It brings renewed joy through the understanding of who we were created to be and our unmatched, intrinsic worth:
“You have searched me, Lord, and know me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me.
Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
When I awake, I am still with you.”
Incredible, right? It can be seemingly impossible to grasp that our Creator loves and cares for us this deeply. But it absolutely does not change that this is true.
My favorite definition of joy is “the sheer beauty of delighting in our Creator”. Through worship of our Creator, we create space for joy & push out fear.
The thing about joy is that, like love, it is not a feeling but a heart posture. Joy will not come unless we have our sights fixed on something permanent and unwavering. Also, in order to maintain joy, we must be free from offense and be learning to walk in forgiveness daily.
This is the foundation of a soft heart.
Of course we will have bad days, and the days when we don’t extend grace or love to others nearly as much as we should, days when we stumble and fall. But we know Who we have to fall upon and that gives us a supernatural strength.
“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, that when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” - James 1:2-3
This lets us know that all of the ups and downs, all of the struggles, & whatever we are faced with will ultimately lead to resilience through the strengthening of faith. When we see the end result is everything good, this produces a lasting joy.
Happiness is fleeting. It is based on feelings, circumstances and instant gratification. “If I just had ____ , then I would be so happy.”
But that’s not how joy works, and that’s really good news! If joy depended on our moods & circumstances, joy would be fleeting- not lasting or eternal. Joy does not strive, chase, seek or depend on anything.
Joy is not a destination, it is a state of being. An anchor. Joy is internal and happiness is external. We can control living in joy by choice and by focusing on the fact that our Creator is always good. Joy is a bedrock. But happiness we cannot control.
Joy is where I have my eyes fixed- on our Creator. It is a supernatural gift of the Spirit.
If we have shifting focus, things that just give us happiness and pleasure in the moment, we will never experience true joy.
The most awesome thing is that the world cannot give joy & therefore it cannot take it away. Joy does take an amount of trust as well. But we know that our Creator is good & we can trust 100% in that.
It is a sure foundation.
After reading Psalm 139 and meditating on it, write down a paragraph or two of how you believe the Creator sees you.
What are some areas where you are experiencing a lack of trust or faith that God is good and is who He says He is?
Think back on a time or two where, even through a huge storm in your life, you were able to give thanks & maintain joy. What traits of your character emerged or were strengthened through this?