Joy. How many times do we get so wrapped up our circumstances, we turn our backs on it, unaware it is as close as peeking over our shoulder? However, truly, it is always there-bold and crisp, wrapped with a bright red ribbon and the merry giggle of bells.
The day this photo was taken, our granddaughter was in a funk. Mom had picked her up from daycare and hadn’t given her the down time it takes for her to unwind from being zapped socially. At 2 1/2, we learned very quickly that if she didn’t have a bit of refreshment and quiet, the melt down in the grocery store or visiting a neighbor would result in a toddler melt down of major proportions. Give her some breathing space, and she bounces back as the usually giggly, eyes dancing bundle of happiness.
Still today, one of her passions is to check people’s joy temperatures. “Are you happy?” she asks with her brow knitted in concern. “I can make you happy,” she assures as she takes grubby toddler hands and pushes up one’s cheeks into a joker like smile. Who can resist perking up after that encouragement?
However, this day the planets were not aligning for anyone. Mom’s best friend, a fantastic photographer, was in town for a rare visit, and the quest to beat the setting sun had us rushing to jam sweet and adorable Christmas pictures in a sliver of quickly vanishing minutes. Add being pitched into a strange environment, us all being tired, and cheerfully demanding that little missy be on center stage as we preformed ridiculous comedic antics any savy 2 1/2-year-old could see through was definitely not working. Bribery and begging failed miserably as well.
None of this was natural to her, which morphed her into a grumpy bearcat. Obviously, she felt the stress to produce in the way we fake cheerfully tried to eek out at least a few darling shots.
Instead, she shut down, pooched out that bottom lip, and crossed her arms to ward off the overwhelming. Take that, crazy people!
Thankfully, Photographer Meg captured this shot in which everyone can relate. How often do we sink our heels in and aren’t going to smile, gosh darn it!? Our stubbornness screams, “You can’t make me! You can’t control me.” Most of the time, it’s because we’re tired, scared, have either isolated or over socialized ourselves, are out of our realm of comfort, or have allowed our fragile confidence to be stolen. Why on earth do we make Joy work so hard?
What if we saw it as being more than mere happiness? What if we fed it raw meat for breakfast and depended on the fact it has iron in its soul?
“The joy of the Lord is my strength…” Psalm 28:7 is what everyone remembers, but if one travels a bit farther, we find, “… and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Until now did you realize Joy has protection woven in it’s fabric to form His shield, warding off the arrows of cynicism, doubt, depression, bullheadedness, criticism, negativity, and whatever else is crammed into the poisoned quiver.
The bottom line of this verse urges us if we will be brave enough to trust Him though the fatigue, being out of our element, fear, having our confidence stomped on, too much being thrown at us, or a myriad of other overwhelming factors, Joy will burst through the cracks, to light us as we radiantly draw others to Him. Sure, anyone can be joyful through perfect times; it’s the challenging ones where Joy shows off God’s faithful presence most excellently.
May we always choose joy to be our shield.
(PS-Megan of Megan Colson Photography did end up pulling out these smiles from somewhere. Joy wins again! All photo credits go to her)