Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Can I "Rejoice" When I Feel Miserable?

Today we rejoice because the light of Christmas is on the horizon. Recently we found flowers in the midst of winter, and now we see early roses bloom. Let us be glad and....

Wait, hold on. I don't feel "glad" or "happy" or in a "joyful" mood. I feel crummy. I feel fuzzy headed. My legs hurt. My fuel tank is empty. I don't even know why I'm writing this post.

Maybe I just want to note that joy -- the joy of a Christian -- is a mysterious thing. Certainly, joy can involve a self-conscious flood of positive emotions, like bright flowers blooming inside us. But even when we don't see flowers, the roots are still there. And the roots are deep.

If we nurture those roots, flowers and fruits are poured forth in ways that we may not see or feel at all. That's a mystery. Am I exaggerating? Look at Mother Teresa. She radiated love and joy, and enkindled it everywhere she went. Yet, as we now know, she felt nothing inside herself for forty years.

She felt no joy. Everything that came forth from her rootedness in the love of God was poured out and given away. She was a fire of joy in the hearts of others.

Of course, Mother Teresa was a saint and a mystic.

I'm plugging along, hoping desperately in God's infinite mercy. Do I have "joy"? Given the Pope's recent text on The Joy of the Gospel, it's a question worth asking.

I beg the Lord to give me joy, to fill my heart with joy.

Yet discouragement is always just outside the door of my heart, making snarky comments about the whole thing. Cynicism proposes itself as a sickly sweet substitute for my emotions. I want to indulge in it, and sometimes I do.

Lord Jesus, forgive me. Never let me give in to discouragement or cynicism.

Well, I still feel crummy, but there is something down there that holds off discouragement; indeed something inside me refutes it, counters it radically with a conviction, something that I know from my encounter with reality.

We don't rejoice because we think it's a good idea to rejoice. We rejoice because of something that happened. We rejoice because a child is born. An event has happened and continues to "happen," because God has really entered history. Jesus. God is changing history, and I have been embraced by that change.

I don't say, "God is Love; God loves me" because it's a sentiment that makes me feel good. I say "God loves me" because He really does love me. He creates my being in every moment. He calls me to Himself. But to help me to discover, remember, and dwell with this ever-faithful love, He has embraced me with a human heart. He has become a little child, a man, my brother. He has made his dwelling with me, with us, with all of us His brothers and sisters.

So I rejoice, because I cannot deny this joy, however strange its ways may be on the bumpy road of the present moment. The light that is the cause of my joy is real. He is here, and His light is not obscured by any difficulties. Sometimes it is an ember burning deep in the dark, faint to my own afflicted eyes, but with enough brightness and enough heat to remind me to keep breathing moment by moment; indeed, to remind me that every moment is worth it!