Joy – The Vulnerable Fruit of the Spirit

“The joy doesn’t replace the heartache; rather, they tensely coexist each day, fighting for our undivided attention.” –Lesa Brackbill

This quote comes from a friend of mine who lost her baby to the horrible disease Krabbe. She wrote it in the midst of the long suffering death of her baby girl. (Read their story here.) Lesa found in the midst of terrible heartache while watching her daughter suffer that she was also capable of having joy. This is brave. It also sounds fake.

We are on part two of a series on the vulnerability that is a part of each of the Fruits of the Spirit. No wonder we try to control our faith so much. It requires much vulnerability from us which is why a life of faith is actually brave. But because of our fear of vulnerability, we would much rather control our faith and keep it safe. How true is that for you?
Part 1 – Love

So my friend suffered through the disease and death of her daughter. She felt heartache. Still feels heartache. Yet she also felt joy. Still feels joy.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3

This is why it feels fake. This is why this Bible verse feels pithy. Joy isn’t supposed to hurt so much.

There we go again with our “supposed to’s”.

As Dr. Brene Brown discovered in her research, joy is the most vulnerable emotion there is. Why? Because deep down, for whatever reasons you have, you don’t believe you are worthy of joy. It is easier to hustle for it…to find it in your controlling situations…to feel like you’ve earned any joy you have felt.  This is easier than to just simply let joy be a part of your life even as your life hurts so much.

Because our mind travels to these kinds of thoughts when we have moments of joy. I’m not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won’t last. So you choose a partial joy you can control. Or If I acknowledge how grateful I am, I’m sure disaster is right around the corner. Because you really believe you don’t deserve this joy. Or I’d rather not be joyful so that I don’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop. There you are trying to control the outcome again—like you have any real control.

Which thought do you find yourself thinking when you are faced with joy?

This is why Americans are drawn to karma. When you practice foreboding joy (what I’m exposing), the thought that someone is going to get “what’s coming to them” as karma states is a comfort. Instead of feeling the pain of the wrong done to you (and it hurts!), you attach karma to it as a protector of your heart. The great and nebulous karma will get that person because I am powerless to do anything myself, except to wish karma on them (at least you did something).

But what do you say to the victim of sexual abuse? This bad karma came to the victim because of something that victim did? Did my friend Lesa’s daughter do something to get the bad karma of Krabbe? If you believe in karma, this is also what you believe. Karma does not make sense in our complicated messy world. But we flippantly use karma as a way to try to control the outcome because the outcome makes no reasonable sense.

Do you know what makes sense? “The joy doesn’t replace the heartache; rather, they tensely coexist each day, fighting for our undivided attention.”

Life hurts. Even if you live a life of faith. Joy is also a part of your life. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. You are worthy to have joy. Those moments, like a pouring rain in a prison yard, are yours to dance in as you have to continue life in the prison yard (my son’s story). They coexist each day.

This is why it is not fake. Vulnerability was chosen.

Sometimes we open-mouth gasp at the vulnerability some people bravely walk into. We wish we could live like them. But we find it easier to call it fake.

Be brave. Let the joy well up inside of you. You are worthy enough to feel it. No matter what crap has happened in your life.


Read the book

A small book about being the people that hurting people need.

“This is the book that I wish I had had for people in my life that have suffered and needed me to be that compassionate friend. This is the book that I wish others in my life had read before they dismissed my pain, or compared it to theirs, or stumbled horribly through trying to lessen my pain because it was actually really about THEM not feeling comfortable with it.”

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