For a while when I was a young mother with small children, I kept count of "dark days" on my calendar. These were days when my patience ran out and I got disgruntled with myself and depressed.
At those times, even the thought of praying became an added burden. It seemed as though almost every day turned dark before it was over, and I grew discouraged at this turn of events in a life which, by the standards of that time, was an idyllic one. Didn't I have a nice home, three dear children, a devoted husband, even supportive parents who lived close by? Not to mention friends and religious faith.
Yes, I did have all these things, but there still seemed to be something lacking. One day I was talking with a friend, rehearsing my woes, knowing even as I recounted them to her that I really had no legitimate grounds for complaining.
"You may need," she replied gently (and I caught a smile in her voice), "to express joy."
As you might guess, I didn't really like this response. It seemed a bit presumptuous and abrupt, given all I had told her. However, I loved and respected this person, and gradually, over the days that followed, what she said began to take root.
Then I remembered a statement I had read in a book called "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy.
The first chapter, "Prayer," says: "We must 'pray without ceasing.' Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice" (pg. 15). I had learned that God is the source of all good, and that we are each God's loved child, possessing by reflection whatever belongs to God. From that, I concluded that if I wanted to feel joyful, I needed to express joy. I couldn't sit around and wait to feel joyful. If I wanted to be patient, I needed to express patience. I needed to put into practice what I desired to have in my life. Acknowledging God as the source gave me the impetus to draw on an inexhaustible reservoir of spiritual good.
My first steps were rather humorous as I look back on them. I remember smiling at myself when I glanced in the wide bathroom mirror while giving the baby a bath. The smile was forced and artificial. Then I began to chuckle, and for brief moments I started to feel a lightness, a joy, I hadn't experienced for a long time.
Next I started answering the phone with a cheery greeting. It set the tone for the conversations that followed and left less room for negative comments. In addition, callers perked up when they heard my greeting and responded in a similar way.
Because joy has its basis in God, it was already an inherent part of my being since I was a child of God. As I identified the joy I was expressing as anchored in a spirituality that was real, I began to feel lighter and happier.
Knowing that joy and patience aren't human possessions, but gifts from God, became the wedge that slowly opened my life to brighter, happier days. I began to acknowledge to a greater degree the presence of a loving God in my life and the lives of people in my family. A deeper gratitude replaced the barrenness I had been feeling.
Gradually those dark days faded. My life became an expression of joy and buoyancy, and my whole family was blessed.
One of the psalms says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (16:11). The shadow of gloom has no place in God's presence - nor in the experience of His sons and daughters. He gives us both the desire and the ability to rise above whatever has been robbing us of our joy and light.
Right now, you can put into practice the expression of qualities you'd like to see in your life. God will show you what they are and give you ways to express them. The benefits are a more meaningful life and more success in whatever activity you're engaged in, whether it's raising a family or constructing a cathedral.
I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations Isaiah 60:15
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