by Sarah Carson—
I am the proud parent of two rescue dogs.
I adopted Amos, a hound mix, when he was 6 months old. He’d been abandoned in the former home of his original family, and despite all of the snuggles and walks and yummy treats he’s had in the past 13 years, he’s never quite gotten over his problem with being left behind. Crate-training was a disaster. A closed door looks like a brick wall through his big, brown eyes. But if you give Amos space to roam—especially on a long stretch of beach or beneath the flight path of a delicious-looking bird—he comes alive. His face lights up, and his open mouth stretches into a grin.
Three years ago, I brought home Amos’ adopted brother, Abel. Abel was found living in the woods of Louisiana. Unlike Amos, whose biggest fear is being abandoned, Abel’s biggest fear is being found. When a new person visits our house, Abel keeps his distance. Stretch out your hand to pet him, and he’ll only move farther away. It takes a while for Abel to learn to trust you, but when he does, when he realizes you mean him no harm, he’ll wrap himself around you on the couch. He’ll put his soft head in your lap and sleep for hours.
This month, in the final installment of our fall Bible study, “No hard feelings?” we will turn away from grief and anger to the emotion I imagine Amos feels when his feet touch the water, or Abel feels when his muzzle snuggles my lap.
“Joy is a state of mind defined not by the present moment, but by the recognition that there is something beyond us that makes us more than we think we are,” Anna Madsen writes in this issue’s Bible study. Take the example of the ancient Hebrews in the Psalms: “…they have felt dead and come alive again; they have wept and rejoiced; they have mourned and danced; they have lamented, and they now know joy—not just fleeting happiness, but true, abiding joy” (p. 22).
Joy, the authors in this issue argue, is different from its cousin, happiness. Happiness is temporary, fleeting. Happiness is the dog treat someone passes through the bars of your cage at the animal shelter.
But joy is permanent. Joy is what happens when you’ve wept and despaired and thought it was all over. Joy is the treat you eat out of the hand of someone who loves you, safe in a home you never thought you’d have.
“When the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were thrown into the fiery furnace, happiness was nowhere to be found” Angela Khabeb writes. “But joy endured the torment of the flames” (p. 18).
Joy comes to us in unexpected places—in a turkey vulture circling above a retirement home (p. 6), in a loving mother panda who may or may not eat her babies (p. 30), or in the glee of your growing child watching other children do what he cannot (p. 34).
In the first two sessions of our Bible study, we’ve already confronted the reality that anger and grief will find us, that there is no outrunning them. In this issue I hope you’ll learn that joy, too, is inevitable. I hope you’ll see that while happiness may fade, joy—like God—never leaves.
Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather.
This article is from the November 2019 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.