Walking in joy often feels crazy and like a denial of actual life. Yet Christians are called to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16). What does this mean, and how is it even possible? Stasi Eldredge invites you to a joy that is defiant in the face of this broken world. This joy does not Pollyannaish-ly ignore life’s heartache; rather, it insists that sorrow and loss do not have the final say. This kind of joy is present to both goodness and grief and interprets them in the light of heaven. With deep vulnerability about her own chronic pain, surprising diagnoses, and relational struggles and loss, Stasi demonstrates how to maintain a posture of holy defiance that neither denies nor diminishes the pain, but instead leans fully into the experience of knowing God’s presence and promise in the middle of whatever life may bring. It’s a grace to welcome Stasi to the farm’s front porch today…
I woke to a white world.
It is mid October now after all and since my home sidles up against the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, I shouldn’t be surprised.
But it was a green and gold world yesterday. Hints too of red and flecks of russet clung to the trees with a defiant resistance against autumn’s wind. My petunias were still blooming. My mums triumphant, their flowers exploding like a colorful firework display.
But not this morning.
This morning every previous shade is hidden under a downy blanket of thick chilly wool.
Somewhere nearby school children are cheering. This is the stuff of legend; this first snow beckons one to dive headfirst into it. Sleds and mittens and boots are being pulled out of storage all over town.
This snow is the answer to many people’s – both young and old – prayers. They have been waiting and longing for it with expectant hope. We are teetering on the edge of a drought and last years snowfall was disappointing at best.
And I admit, yes, even my summer heart admits, that it is breathtakingly lovely.
Higher up on our hill, the little grave of my first grandson is covered in the purity that falls from the sky.
We laid his tiny body in the ground two and a half years ago.
The spot is gently tended with love by those who are waiting to know him well, who long to trace his face with their fingers and to hear his laugh and see the light in his eyes that belongs only to him. His resting place is tended as well by deer and their fawns as they graze their way through and passing foxes as they glide by like ghosts.
It is surrounded by birdsong, gentle winds and the guardian of Hope. And now it too is blessed with white.
I have experienced many goodbyes in my life and the older I get the more I have had to say. It would break my heart into shards were I not to know that my goodbyes, though excruciating, are temporary. So I wait.
And I wait with hope.
And I wait with what can sometimes feel like empty hands and an empty heart.
I wait with an attentiveness to the God of Love who alone can meet me in my waiting with a hope that will sustain me.
But I must choose to turn my gaze to Him. I must choose to be present to the reality that though I am surrounded by beauty, I am made for more. To know Him in my waiting, I must not turn my face from my aching.
Presence requires a sort of emptiness allowing for the space to feel, to notice, to be aware, to be attentive to God, to others and to your own soul. Remember, it is into the emptiness that our God came. He filled the void with Light and Life.
When I fill my life with distractions, running from the emptiness of waiting, there is no room for Jesus to come.
Last summer, when all my family was going to be home at once, I decided to surprise them and make a lovely and large dinner. A lot of thought and planning went into it; a lot of preparation. I set the table in a special way. I got out candles and lit them. I lay pretty placemats on the table and a bouquet of wildflowers in the center. I made a special salad – meaning I didn’t merely rip open a bag like I usually do and dump it into a bowl, no, I chopped things. I even prepared a fresh homemade dressing. Making dinner took a lot of time slicing, sautéing, and baking. Oh, the house smelled wonderful.
My sons knew when to be home for dinner. Dinner at our house barring an emergency or an act of God is at 6pm. Has been for all of their lives. They came home with plenty of time to spare but they had been so hungry previously that they’d stopped at Chipotle two hours earlier and eaten a massive burrito. They were still filled to the brim.
My sons thwarted my plans. They didn’t know I had gone to a lot of extra work; that I was offering not just food but love to them that evening and instead of coming home filled with anticipation, they came with no appetite at all.
They weren’t hungry and though we all joined together at the table, the beautiful, hard won food was barely touched. If I had told them what was coming, they wouldn’t have eaten beforehand.
If they knew a feast had been prepared for them, they would have waited to eat knowing that soon they would be filled. No one in their right mind would drive through McDonalds right before sitting down to a Thanksgiving dinner.
Doesn’t it help you stay in the hunger when you know that a feast is coming? The waiting is still hard – but you know it won’t last.
Dear ones, the waiting is not going to last. But there is no shame in being hungry.
The only way we can wait with any kind of grace and even know the joy that we are exhorted to possess while we do is if we know in the depths of our soul that we will not be waiting forever.
We are going to be filled.
I am learning that it is not in living without pain or emptiness or longing of any kind that I will find joy. It is not. No. It is in His presence that I will know the fullness of joy.
Because God doesn’t merely give us joy. In every season of our lives be they filled with goodness or grief, summer’s blooms or winter’s chill, He gives us Himself. Joy incarnate.
The sky this morning is as white as the world it covers. It has been painted over by an artist who has chosen a new palette wishing to try again. The colors are covered but the scars and the dirt and the dying leaves of earth are now hidden from view as well, their ragged beauty over shadowed by a purity they could not manage themselves.
My world holds scars. There are places in me that feel ragged, others that hold death.
This morning’s snow reminds me yet again that our Jesus covers it all.
He has cleansed it all.
His scars hold all the hope I need.
Though I grieve the end of seasons and mourn the loss of those I love, hating every goodbye I have ever had to say, because of Jesus, I know that a grand and endless “Hello” is coming.
So I can wait for it. I can long for it.
And I can do it with an expectant hope that will not disappoint.
Stasi Eldredge is a New York Times bestselling author, and her books have sold nearly 3 million copies and changed women’s lives all over the world. A teacher and conference speaker, Stasi is the director of the women’s ministry at Ransomed Heart and leads Captivating retreats internationally. Her passion is to see lives transformed by the beauty of the gospel.
Stasi shows readers how to choose a joy that stands against the tides of life’s real and often overwhelming pain. We are called to live. And, miraculously, to live with joy.
We all spend a lot of energy reaching for happiness, but we are never quite able to hang on to it. Real life happens, and our circumstances take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. So the Bible’s call to “be joyful always” sounds almost crazy—and out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be.
Joy is meant to be ours, a joy that is defiant in the face of this broken world. This joy is not simply happiness on steroids; it’s the unyielding belief that sorrow and loss do not have the final say. It’s the stubborn determination to be present to whatever may come and to interpret both goodness and grief by the light of heaven.
In her latest book Defiant Joy: Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and life in a Hurting World, Stasi Eldredge invites us with courage, candor, and tender vulnerability to a place beyond sadness or happiness. She shows us how to maintain a posture of holy defiance that neither denies nor diminishes our pain but dares to live with expectant, unwavering hope.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]