“I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”

Psalm 9:2

As I sat in class this morning, staring at a subpar test score, panicked thoughts flashed across my mind.

If I don’t get my grades up, I won’t earn the transfer scholarship. 

If I don’t earn the transfer scholarship, I’ll get into even more student loan debt. 

How on earth can I pay off $_______ with no income?

I shouldn’t even be in this class, I should have dropped it when I had the chance.

Stress and worry are smooth criminals. They lurk beneath the surface of a happy façade, waiting to come to light at the first hint of a deadline, promotion, project, or milestone. Stress and worry are thieves of joy, attacking us at our most vulnerable. They creep into our plans and daydreams like lions stalking prey. You’re walking through the savanna of your day, brushing aside the tall grass around you, when a rustle sounds to your right: You forgot to buy groceries/file taxes/fill your gas tank. A mental note appears, and you’re consumed with guilt for a moment. A few more steps, a few more minutes, and you stumble over a rock: There’s a big meeting next week, and you’re underprepared. Your stroll becomes a brisk walk, as you speed to outpace the threat of your thoughts. A low growl whispers in your ear: You’ll never be able to finish the day’s tasks. You’re not good enough. Cue panic as the worry attacks.

Moments like this can become ordinary if you aren’t careful. For an unemployed college student with student loans in the process of transferring schools, moments like this lead to despair, frenzy, and the overwhelming urge to drop out of college altogether. It becomes all too easy to ask myself, “what’s the point?” When I become stressed, I have a one-track mind for my insufficiency and failure. I neglect relationships, have a permanent scowl, and snap at the innocent. In the middle of my panic this morning, the Lord whispered to me:

Daughter, when you are stressed and in despair, you’ve lost sight of your perfect joy in Christ. 

Wow. Where has my faith been?

To you, joy may be little more than a tiding of goodwill towards men, torn down with the garland and tinsel at the end of December (or January, or February, no judgment here). In actuality, joy is much grander than that. Jesus rocked my world yesterday with this gem from She Reads Truth:

True joy is not something that can be conjured up or willed.

Joy is not constant happiness or fake smiles, joy is faith, peace, and love’s beautiful outpour. When we trust the Lord with the nitty-gritty details of our life, we have the freedom to love others well. Do you think that if you surrender the reins on your life to God, he’s going to let your job, family, or education crumble? There is unexplainable peace found in Christ’s joy, because joy is simply embracing and acknowledging your freedom in redemption. God offers joy to us at every turn, in every season, in all circumstances. All it takes is worship. All it takes is intimacy with Christ.  Acknowledging that God is greater than our current circumstances lifts the burdens of this world off of our shoulders so we can rejoice with gladness.

Finding joy requires faith in God’s power, and an eternal perspective. This world is our temporary home, but if we put our faith in Jesus, we’ll spend eternity worshipping. What greater joy can be found than in worshipping the Creator of all? What greater joy can be found in deep intimacy with the one who knows every star by name?

“You will show my the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”

Psalm 16:11

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