by Emily Conrad
Joy lives at my house, but it’s not what you think.
My grandma fell ill a few days before Christmas, 2019. While she was in the hospital, a gift from one of my out-of-town relatives arrived. The pair of Thanksgiving cactuses, one with white blooms, the other red, came nestled in a decorative planter adorned with the word joy.
The box containing Joy was delivered to Grandma’s cold December doorstep. There, the gift tipped and waited. Wisconsin’s winter gnawed at the fleshy leaves, which were never intended to survive the below-freezing temperatures.
Joy’s leaves and flowers suffered damage before my mom and sister delivered it to Grandma’s hospital room.
Until the bout of pain that led to her admittance to the hospital, my grandmother had been independent and quite healthy. Less than twenty-four hours later, she went on hospice.
Joy brightened her hospital room and bore silent witness to the stories our gathered family shared during our vigil. Though we grieved, we also found grace in those days.
When Grandma left for her heavenly home, Joy remained, an orphan.
My parents packed it up and brought it home. I asked after Joy, and my mom sent the gift with me to tend and, hopefully, grow.
Now, Joy has just finished its second bloom.
The irony of a cactus named Joy isn’t lost on me. Especially since the situation that brought Joy to me is pricklier than the plant.
As believers, we can have joy no matter our circumstances.
But I picture joy as a beautiful gift that arrives in full bloom, encased in a protective box on my doorstep, the way that flowering cactus first arrived at Grandma’s.
If only she’d been home to immediately open the door and bring it in.
She wasn’t. The plant suffered damaged.
Likewise, my joy often seems bruised with loneliness, discouragement, grief, or confusion. Unrealized longings settle over it like frost. As my heart aches with the circumstances I face, I wonder if the damage is too much.
Jesus told His followers they would have trouble in this world.
Each of us knows this truth in our bones.
How can joy survive in this environment?
And yet, as soon as Jesus warns of the trials we all will face, He encourages us to take heart.
I imagine a smile edged with joy lighting His face as He followed the problem with the solution—Himself.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV
Jesus has overcome the world.
His promises endure.
They never arrive damaged and frozen. He will never fail to bring His purposes into full bloom.
No, I don’t have the full realization of all the things I think might produce joy in this life. Grandma and other loved ones are gone, and I miss them. I harbor as-of-yet unfulfilled dreams. The needs of the world daunt me; I’m often helpless even to rescue a hurting friend from a troubling situation.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:18-19, ESV
Jesus is Savior. An eternity placed in His hands is secure.
He is our strength, the one who enables us to face any circumstances.
These are the certainties that safeguard the hope of believers. The joy.
When joy seems to wither and die back, it’s a sign that we’ve let our sights settle on our earthly doorsteps rather than our homes in heaven.
Here, yes, we will have troubles.
But Jesus has overcome the world, and He promises us a future where thieves do not come to steal, where moths do not destroy, where flowers don’t freeze, and joy is always in bloom.
My joy often seems bruised with loneliness, discouragement, #grief, or confusion. Unrealized longings settle over it like frost. As my heart aches, I wonder if the damage is too much. But in Jesus, there is #hope. @emilyrconrad
Jesus told His followers they would have trouble in this world. Each of us knows this truth in our bones. How can #joy survive in this environment? @emilyrconrad #hope
When joy seems to wither and die back, it’s a sign that we’ve let our sights settle on our earthly doorsteps rather than our homes in heaven. @emilyrconrad #joy #hope
Enjoy this blog? Subscribe by email here!
Great message here! I was feeling down last night when we were at church for Advent service, and the speaker talked about "joy". I'll admit I was grumbly, but I also know I'm not looking in the right place for joy. A good reminder.
Thanks for reading, Anne! It can be so easy to look in the wrong place for joy. Grateful for God's patience in pointing us back to the right place—Himself.
Love this post! This is such a beautiful encouragement and reminder that we can have joy that lasts the bruising and the troubles when our joy is in our Overcomer. I love the Habakkuk passage you shared, as well. So powerful.
Emily, the parallels are bittersweet and beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing these truths! And I’m sorry for the loss of your grandma. I know holidays can highlight the grief at times. Hugs!
Thanks for reading, Jerusha! Yes, joy is in our Overcomer!
I appreciate that, Pearl. Coming up on the anniversary has stirred up some grief, but I see blessings, too. And hope, of course, in Christ <3 Thanks for stopping by today!