…Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. John 16:22
Some days are “down days” – days when nothing’s really wrong, but you don’t feel like yourself, days when the fatigue is more emotional than physical, days when you look around at your beautiful gift of a life and say, “Meh.”
These are the “down days.” Holly Golightly called them “the mean reds,” and, Christian or not, they’re coming for you. Everyone has days when they feel grumpy, bored, stressed, and even mean. It’s part of the human experience, and you don’t stop being human just because you become a Christian.
Sometimes becoming a Christian means becoming even more empathetic, which unfortunately can lead to an even deeper experience of the pain of our fallen world.
So let me write it right here, right now– That is okay!
It is okay to be sad, to feel down, and go through “the mean reds.” You are allowed to be a real person, and to have real emotions, and genuine struggles. You’re even allowed to have days when God’s brilliant goodness and love are dulled by the drudgery of the mundane and every day.
“But that isn’t right!” you may say. “Aren’t Christians supposed to be happy and full of joy?”
You are allowed to be an imperfect believer. In fact, that’s the only kind of believer there is. As far as happiness and joy go, those are two very different things.
Happiness fluctuates with your situation. It’s a mood. God does not expect you to be happy all the time. He wasn’t. During his time on earth, Jesus was often tired (John 4:6), sad (Luke 19:41), and angry (John 2:13-22). He even wept at the tomb of one of his best friends (John 11:35).
You see, happiness is a circumstantial emotion, and there are times when it is inappropriate or even wrong to be happy (e.g. when misfortune befalls another, when others are hurting, when jealousy drives us to vengeance, etc.). So no, Christians are not supposed to be happy all the time.
But Joy… Joy is something very different… something special.
Joy is not an emotion. Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, very much akin to peace and hope. It is a sense of well-being which does not alter with our circumstance, because it is rooted in our assurance of salvation through Christ. If you are a Christian who has committed their life and soul to Jesus, then your future is secure. You are held safe in the arms of Christ, and nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). That knowledge colors everything else in your life, so that no matter what your circumstance, the best thing that could ever happen has already happened to you.
The continual knowledge of and gratitude for that fact… that is Joy, and if you are a Christian, nothing can take that Joy from you.
And guess what? More than anything else, the world needs that Joy, your Joy, the Joy of Christ in you. Our broken and fallen world does not need another fake smile, half-hearted laugh, or sugar-coated truth. It needs real Joy. Joy that sits and cries with grieving friends, knowing full-well the promise of eternal life; Joy that stands in anger against violence and injustice, believing beyond doubt in a good and just God; Joy that is always horrified at the sinful atrocities we bring on one another, just as it is always sure of the forgiveness and scandalously reckless love God has for us sinners.
This is Joy – hope in the hard places. Joy means having a reason to celebrate even when you have a reason to mourn.
So if you’re having a down day, if you’re experiencing “the mean reds,” don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re only human. You weren’t designed to be happy all of the time. But allow me to remind you that you have something special. You have a hope and assurance of salvation that you can celebrate every day.
Jesus, thank You for being a God who understands our emotions intimately. Thank You for gifting us the freedom to feel. Help us Jesus to remember the hope we have in You. Grow our Joy even in our sorrows, and help our hearts always to celebrate the peace we have in the knowledge of Your love. In your name, Amen.