About a year ago Travis and I were laying in bed when in the darkness came his gentle and concerned voice: “Honey, why aren’t you joyful anymore? You used to be joyful.” The question went like a dagger through my heart. Not because of the way it was said but because of the stinging reality that it made me face. Am I not joyful? Have I changed? Is something wrong with me? Why does he think I’m not joyful?
I don’t remember exactly how I responded to Travis’ question that night, but I think my initial response was something along the lines of, “I didn’t realize I’m not joyful.”
Travis’ sincere concern plagued me for several weeks–even months, I think. Once in a while we would revisit the topic and I would report my latest ideas of why I didn’t seem joyful. “I’m just really tired all the time…. I just have so much to get done in a day…. I just feel like my body is every one’s but mine…. Maybe I’ve just never quite gotten over the baby blues…” etc.
I continued to give Travis answers that were entirely true, but all the while I was giving them I honestly didn’t see in myself that I was lacking joy. I thought I was just a normal, busy, tired mom and that Travis would eventually understand that it was simply that.
And so I continued on in my normal, tired, busy state, lacking joy but not realizing it.
About a month ago while visiting with some friends of ours–a married couple somewhat new to the faith–Travis presented them with a challenge: “Over the next few weeks, think of five or six ways that you can help your spouse grow spiritually, and implement them. Angela and I will do it, too.” This was the first I’d heard of the idea, but I thought it was great and was excited to get started!
I spent a couple weeks thinking about how I could encourage Travis’ spiritual growth; and, surprisingly, the first two things that came to mind were changes that I needed to make in myself. One was to stop complaining about things. (Kind of like the “lacking joy” thing, I didn’t realize my tendency to complain until my husband recently brought it to my attention. But this I actually conceded to… eventually.) And the second was to go about my work willingly and joyfully. (Let me note here that when I came up with this one, it was not as a direct result of the piercing year-old question, but more as a result of reading Proverbs 31. As I read about this “excellent wife,” something made me think that she would not have been blessed by her children and praised by her husband for her work if she was not doing it with a willing and joyful spirit.)
So that was it. I will be joyful. It’s decided.
A few days later, just after the first of the year, Travis proposed the idea of doing a read-through-the-Bible-in-one-year plan together. For some reason it took me an entire day before I suddenly came to the conclusion, That would be awesome!, but he was patient and promptly got us started as soon as I came around.
A few days into the plan, I realized that I felt differently than I had in a long time. I felt joyful. I noticed that I was laughing more, enjoying my husband and children more, even finding joy in getting up three times a night with my sick children.
And then it struck me. Travis was right. I was lacking joy. I just couldn’t recognize my joylessness until I had rediscovered joyfulness. And the funny thing is, it wasn’t my decision to be joyful that is bringing me joy; it is reading the Word of God every day that is bringing me joy.
I am so thankful to have a godly husband who encourages my spiritual growth, and I am even more thankful to have a God who fills me with all joy, hope, and peace. How awesome is His Word and how fulfilling is the joy that can be found only in Him!