Have you ever known someone who made you feel guilty for being happy? You know: the kind of person who you feel like you can't talk about how good your life is because at every turn they are sharing a horrible story about how bad theirs is? Who complain non-stop about everything: "My wife spends too much money", "I couldn't get the new car I really wanted", "my kids are such a pain." Tell me if this doesn't resound true to you because, sadly, I don't think this is an uncommon problem.
I remember a turning point in my life where I was with one such person and they were complaining non-stop about every little thing. I often would feel the need to complain when I was around this type of person - like I didn't want to make them feel bad that I had joy in my life when they couldn't grasp hold of it. But, instead of joining in, all of the sudden I realized that I didn't have to be dragged down to that level myself. I realized that rather than feel the need to validate the complaining attitude, I could instead acknowledge that no life (apart from when we are in heaven) is perfect and that although life is full of pain and heartache, it doesn't mean we cannot choose and seek the joy that only God can bring. I realized in that moment, that I had actually allowed this person the power over my very outlook on life - and rather than fighting for joy against all odds, I had been sucked into the idea that I had to feel guilty for enjoying life.
Now, I am not claiming to have mastered (by any stretch) living a joy-filled life in every trial and every pain. I definately have times when I am down-right depressed over the suffering in the world and the pain in my body. Nor do I claim that because of this turning point do I never allow other's to drag me down with negativity. BUT, I think that realizing that I can choose to fight for joy and REJOICE in the joy and hope that God offers every one of us, has been so liberating for me. It is definately a journey; but one that I am excited to take. I don't want to ever be the one dragging others down. I want to allow the joy that God offers to spill over onto those around me and for this to cause those who are down-trodden to be able to look to God and find even a tiny bit of hope for a joy-filled life. If I have ever (and I am sure that I have) made any of you feel guilty for the smile that you had on a day when I was crying and unable to see that hope and joy - I am so sorry. Thank you for walking with me through this journey. May we all look to God for our strength and our smile.