The days were painfully long. The woman did not think she could endure many more of them. She felt heightened anxiety nearly every moment of each day. The only respite from this emotional turmoil was the hopelessness that often smothered her like a heavy quilt in July. At least when it descended, the fear abated for a short season. Yet, the nameless dread rushed back like air into a vacuum each time the bleakness gave way. It was one or the other. No peace. No rest. Death would be a welcome relief. Or so she thought betimes.
Yet, a light had begun to shine in her darkness. Initially, only a tiny ray of hope reached her. Then more hope and, here and there, bits of peace. She knew the source of these stirrings of relief. Jesus. She had cried out to Him constantly in her profound despair. Even though she had not been able to feel His touch or presence at this time in her life, she had screamed to Him in her heart; hoping beyond hope that He would, indeed, hear her cries and rescue her. For truly, despair is a death row where each inmate is chained alone in darkness, and no one is ever executed. Resolution is not the aim of the jailer; torture is. Into this darkness the light was dawning.
On a beautiful day, the lady went for a walk with her husband. She had been reading a devotion by Charles Spurgeon about how deep and unfathomable is the love of Christ; as unending as an ocean to a seabird skimming along the surface. She was dwelling on this thought, as she and her husband strolled down the desert path under the fair blue sky. Then it happened.
The day rolled back and reality, as she knew it, folded away. Still, the two of them walked hand in hand through the cacti and muhly grass. What was happening? The sky was above, the ground beneath, and husband beside. Nevertheless, actuality had pulled away the heavy blanket of normalcy. She was immediately enveloped by joy. It was strong, alive, crisp, and verdant. Joy filled the air, or rather, joy replaced the air, and she inhaled its purity.
At the very heart of this pulsing aliveness was Jesus. She could not see Him, but He was there! The joy emanating from Him washed, baptized, and filled everything with hope and love. She looked around with her new awareness of joy at the same scenery she had known for a decade, now bathed in peace. How could she not have known this before?! How could she have existed all these years and not have waded in joy’s strong and generous current?
Oh, such joy! The lady reveled in it; her words eagerly tumbled out to her husband, “The grandest music doesn’t describe joy well enough! Words can’t define joy! Artists can’t create a painting lovely enough to show its colors, shades, and beauty! And just think! Joy lives just beyond the heavy shroud of this life; waiting for those of us who know and love Jesus!”
As her dark chains fell away and disintegrated, the lady said to her Lord, “You’ve been here all along!! Oh Lord, Jesus, thank you!”
The heavy blanket of pseudo-reality had been pealed back to reveal certainty itself. Himself. Though she knew that normalcy must eventually be laid back over her mind, emotions, and awareness, she also knew that despair could never again torture and crush her heart with fear and desolation. For she was tasting of heaven; Drinking deeply of eternity! She could never forget this luxuriant breath of life! She would ever after recall the magnificent Joy that thrives in the presence of Jesus!
Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
Isaiah 55:12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
John 16:22b I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (Jesus)
(All Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.)