Stolen Joy

Several weeks ago, I declared war on stress.

I realized it was stealing my joy. So I decided it was time to fight. Life is a struggle, I wrote in my journal, and being a fighter is crucial. But during my church retreat last weekend (all messages can be found here), I realized that that picture of life is incomplete. Life doesn’t have to be such a struggle.

Shortly before Jesus went to face his death, he said to his disciples:

“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything.”
– John 16:22-24

For those who know about Jesus’ resurrection, life is meant to be marked by JOY.

The week before the retreat, stress hit me from all sides.

After playing a piano piece poorly in studio class, I became convinced I wasn’t going to be ready for my recital at the end of the month. I freaked out, texted a bunch of people, and let the anxious thoughts stew. Remembering all the other things coming up this month (apartment hunting, church retreat, my regular commitments) just stressed me out more. It wasn’t until I got to the prayer tabernacle and turned my heart to worship that I was able to turn my back on fear and find peace.

I also got hit with sudden anxiety about relationships and all sorts of stuff. When I consulted my small group leader and she told me I was “fine,” I wanted to whine back, “No I’m not fine! I need you to help me!!” Only after I spent the rest of the evening praying, meditating, and wrestling with a myriad of thoughts, questions, and doubts did I finally find peace.

Now, God has brought me into a new place. One in which I simply rebuke my anxieties and then move on.

I can’t explain exactly how it happened, but God gave me powerful clarity this weekend. I realized that so many of the questions I was asking Jesus (and my small group leader) were unnecessary, because I already knew the answers. I simply wasn’t choosing to believe.

So this weekend, while catching a cold, not sleeping enough, and not practicing piano at all, I decided to stop worrying about my recital. I simply refused to be anxious about it and decided to believe it was going to be “fine.” Instead of worrying about whether I’d be able to memorize everything, get everything into my fingers, and focus well on the performance day, I told God I wanted the recital to simply be worship unto Him. That was all.

(Side Note: In the three days since the retreat, all my recital pieces have really been coming together. It’s definitely going to be fine.)

I also decided to stop worrying about money.

(Something I mentioned in a recent post, but which I had still been wrestling with.) So when I got back from the retreat and found my laptop power cord had spontaneously stopped working, I calmly went out to buy a new one. And when the guy at the store told me it would cost $98 (something I did not budget for), instead of letting myself cry like I wanted to, I told myself, “No, this is not worth crying over. God is taking care of your financesㅡdon’t worry about it.”

It took a few minutes for my emotions to come into alignment with my faith, but only a few. And when they did, I felt so light and happy. Because I realized that nothing could steal my joy.

When it comes down to it, my struggles with anxiety and stress were unnecessarily taking up a lot of time and energy.

Jesus’ words of wisdom, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” are so true.. One of the speakers this weekend said, “Some of you are busy fighting all these battles, but it is time to lay down your weapons and build.”

In this new place of victory and joy, I am free to build. Instead of living in day-to-day survival mode, I can start building my life here in Korea. I don’t have to wait until my recital is over, until I start making money, until I feel a certain feeling, I can start now. (Step one: moving in with an awesome roommate at the end of the month.) I have to say, I’m pretty excited.

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Elizabeth is an American living in South Korea who believes in destiny, miracles, and living life intentionally. She holds to simple faith in a complex world, values the beauty of the everyday, and strives for vulnerability with other imperfect humans. She is always learning, laughing, and finding herself in awe of grace.

2 thoughts on “Stolen Joy

  1. Wow! This is a powerful testimony of an important spiritual truth. Thanks for sharing! :) I just love reading your blog, Elizabeth. It is so encouraging! Praise Him!

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