Have You Ever Wondered Who Has Joy in Life and Why?
For 13 years, I worked with youth in a juvenile court facility. One spring day, I took a group of girls to a beautiful lake. For the first time in their lives, they experienced camping, fishing, campfires, great food, miniature golf, swimming, and boating. I asked them the question I had asked my daughter, Debi: “What is joy?”
Kathy, a 10-year-old, said, “I don’t know what joy is. I don’t think I have ever had it.”
A 12-year-old said, “I haven’t felt joy since my uncle raped me three years ago.”
“I have never felt joy, said a 13-year-old who had been in foster care for two years. “I can remember my dad trying to flush my head down a toilet. He used to beat me until I lost consciousness.”
The children at the juvenile court were not free to experience joy; memories of abuse and rejection filled their minds. People in their past had robbed them of the freedom every child has the right to experience.
The young girls were afflicted with fear, anger, and past hurts. They had pain from post-traumatic stress disorder that kept them from having joy. Some girls would mope around watching the others having fun, not allowing themselves to participate. Some grew angry over remarks made by others and would let it affect their whole day. Others were so worried about what their peers would think of them, they could not have fun. They were not like most children who were free to play and enjoy life.
A wounded child is like a computer programmed for sorrow, fear, loneliness, rejection, and sadness. Because of their past hurts, they were incapable of receiving care from others, and experiencing fun. Memories prevented their joy.
A Woman in Search of Joy
I found the same hurts in a battered women’s shelter when I interviewed women who had been physically and mentally abused by husbands, lovers, and boyfriends. “When was the last time you felt joy?” I asked in group one evening.
“I felt joy when my son was born,” a 28-year-old woman said.
“When was that?” I asked.
“Ten years ago,” she said.
“I don’t think I have ever known joy,” said Sara, a thirty-two-year-old woman who had just gotten out of the emergency room with kidney damage from a beating. Sara had been with Roger since she was fourteen when she was placed in foster care after being sexually abused by her stepfather. Roger was the nephew of her foster parents. At the age of 16, she moved in with Roger, becoming his slave. He controlled everything she said, did, and thought. In the twelve months before she came to the battered women’s shelter, she had been to the hospital emergency room 27 times. She had been admitted to the hospital twelve times. It was clear she would die if she stayed in the relationship. While she was at the shelter, her abusive lover found her, broke through the windows with a metal pipe, and beat her.
Sara’s situation did not change easily. Unless we could heal the pain that was deep in her soul, she would not survive. She knew no other way of life. She was programmed for sorrow and in bondage to an abusive man.
Finding Joy through Service
There was another group who seemed to have joy. The men and women I interviewed on my television show, Kansas City Heroes, saw the potential in every situation. They gave their lives to help others in the community. Pastor Jessie Watson was one of those men.
Jessie stands out in my mind as a hero who saw the potential good that could come out of human destruction. Jessie lived in a beautiful old home in the city, but it was surrounded by gangs, drugs, drive-by shootings, and prostitution. When the house next door to his turned into a drug house, he envisioned transforming it into a home for troubled youth. A vision for restoring that old house became so strong that he took out a second mortgage on his own home, and invested everything he had into buying the house next door.
As he shared his vision with people throughout the community, they united to help him bring the vision to pass. Men and women came to help restore the house. Donations came in, and when the house opened it was a beautiful work of love. The house was called “The Bridge.” The house stood in an inner-city community, representing hope in the lives of hundreds of youth. Jessie Watson and his wife, Bev, had problems. Life was not easy for them. But they had joy.
Day 2 – Challenge:
Start a Joy Journal – You can use a spiral notebook or a hardbound journal with blank pages.
Today write about these things:
- Think of ways you have turned bad things around to the good; write this in your journal.
- Is there a past hurt you can give to God asking Him to fill that emptiness with His joy?
- Are there acts of service that you could do in your local area?
- If you would like to share your answers with our group post these to our Facebook Group
Not a member of the Joy in Troubled Times Challenge yet?
Over the coming days, I want to inspire and challenge you to make a choice each morning to be more joyful. Here’s why I decided to create this challenge: Because joy is a choice, and a choice we make every single day. I want to challenge you to make it a habit.
Changing our habits and how we approach life requires time and daily, conscious decisions. That’s where the challenge comes into play. When you participate in the challenge, you will receive a daily reminder via email to visit this blog, read an inspiring article, and complete a short reflection. When you complete the challenge, you will have formed new habits, new ways of thinking, and new ways to look at situations in life as they unfold. With a little shift in thinking and perception, you can have a more joyful and fulfilling life. I hope this challenge will help you get there.
My Challenge to You Today = Join the Joy in Troubled Times Challenge today!
To make sure you don’t miss a post, click the link below to get access to our awesome “Joy in Troubled Times” Facebook group, and get daily inspiration and motivation via email.