Finding Your Joy - A Pastoral Note from Jenny

Dear friends,

Finding your joy.

There is no doubt in my mind that this year has so far been filled with struggle and disappointment on a very widespread scale. And when hope seems to rise up and encourage us to think that things will be better soon, something else happens that knocks us around and challenges our sense of hopefulness. Or maybe this is not as widespread as it is feeling to me at the moment?

My latest disappointment arrived this week when the Premier of South Australia announced that the border to NSW would not reopen on 20th July as previously suggested. We had planned a trip back home to see our children (and I hasten to assure you that they are young adults - we did not abandon school-aged children when we moved to Sydney!) as well as other family and friends. We had been looking forward to it, preparing for it, making plans on when we would be able to catch up with people, and are now told that we cannot enter the state without doing mandatory quarantining for 2 weeks in which we would not be able to see anyone anyway.

Over the last few days since hearing this news I have kept reminding myself that there are others who are in far worse situations, and who are separated by greater distances from their family, and it will be even longer before they are able to visit with them. My heart aches for them too. I remind myself that there are people in Melbourne and surrounds who are ‘locked down’ and unable to leave their homes without a ‘valid reason,’ and who have to endure that for at least 6 weeks. I remind myself of those who have lost their jobs, who are cut off from services that help them simply survive (from food banks to mental health support). And my heart feels like it is crumbling under the weight of care and compassion. I have also had to remind myself I am allowed to feel the grief and pain in my own story.

It has been nearly two days (at time of writing) since I heard the border with SA will be closed, and I have known I cannot keep wallowing in self-pity and sadness. Or perhaps the thing for me is that I don’t want to keep wallowing! I am generally an optimist and will constantly search out the positives in life, even in the midst of the most difficult times. And so, I have started to look for the joys in my life, recognising that means needing to create opportunities to find joy at the moment.

While this isn’t the place for a long theological rationale about joy, I want to explain that, for me, joy isn’t about feeling all happy and smiley. Joy is something that comes from the depths of my being, and can be serious or laughing, it can bring tears of gladness as well as sobs of sadness. Joy, in essence, is the connectedness I have with the One who created me and sustains me in all times and through all things. It is the understanding that God will not let me go, will not abandon me.

In these past few days I have made a conscious effort to find my joy — to find my connectedness with God. So, I am intentionally doing things that bring a bit of light into the darkness of other people’s lives. I have found my joy through writing a letter of appreciation, gifting someone a cup of coffee, offering a word of appreciation, and simply having a chat with someone who is lonely and alone. As I take my daily walks, I regularly cross paths with a local who persists in wishing me ‘Happy New Year’ — this appears to be the only greeting he knows how to give. And I love to watch the smile broaden on his face when I wish him ‘Happy New Year’ in return! These are simple things that bring me joy, and they bring me joy because they connect me with God. As Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). My greatest joy comes through serving the Christ I find in those whom I encounter. 

May I encourage you today to identify something you might do that will help you find your joy — no matter what you are experiencing in this moment. And may your joy bring you greater connection with the One who created you and sustains you in this time and all times.

Blessings and peace,