JOY IN HEARTACHE
By: Christina Levasheff, Judson’s Mom
The morning after Judson died, I was lying in bed, hardly able to breathe. Tears clouded my eyes as I wondered how I would ever experience joy again. A few seconds later, our daughter Jessie, just 14 months old, came racing into our room—she was completely oblivious to all that had transpired. She climbed up on our bed, laughing, giggling, and rolling around with delight (read the full story in Eyes that See). She was pure joy. And in that moment, it became apparent that joy was, and would continue to be, present around me, despite my pain. However, it took me much longer to fully understand the relationship between joy and pain within me.
We live in a world that holds happiness as the pinnacle value, where good fortune and pleasure are fundamental. It is considered by many to be the highest human condition. Yet even if we don’t deem the pursuit of happiness as the leading principle of life, most of us would admit that we want to be happy. Yet happiness, as defined by the world, is dependent upon life’s circumstances. Pain exists in opposition to happiness and anything miserable is its adversary.
Meanwhile, we’ve fused happiness and joy, using them interchangeably as if they are completely synonymous.
When Judson began suffering, we were suddenly faced with a life that was anything but “happy.” Pain and misery had invaded our lives while good fortune and pleasure eluded us. And with Judson’s death, that pain became pervasive; it permeated even the smallest crevices of my life. And in some of my darkest moments of heartache, staring down a trajectory of brokenness, I wondered if I would ever experience fullness of joy again.
Over time, I began to realize that I had I had been equating joy with happiness and viewing pain in opposition to both; I saw pain as the antithesis not only to happiness, but also to my joy. I saw their relationship as antagonistic, as though my heartache volitionally sought to thwart my joy, even crush it!
But pain is not the enemy of joy.
My joy cannot eradicate my pain, but neither can my pain wipeout or rob me of joy. They are not seeking to conquer one another like hostiles in combat battling to gain full occupation of my heart; pain and joy are not foes.
Judson modeled this.
My little boy, despite having every bodily function stolen from him while also experiencing great pain, frustration and discomfort, exuded indescribable joy (watch Videos of Jud). This is because his joy was not conditional to his circumstances. Judson was content, despite his suffering.
Joy, genuine joy, can thrive in the midst of pain.
Genuine joy is not a fleeting happiness over life’s circumstances. Genuine joy stems from a deep understanding that God is present with us, loves us, and has a purpose for our pain. Therefore, our experience of pain, no matter how great, cannot thwart joy. God has designed joy and pain to beautifully coexist together within us.
Living a life of genuine hope means that pain and joy walk together, hand in hand. Joy cannot diminish my pain and loss, but it is also cannot be held prisoner to it. As I began to accept and even expect pain and joy to be allies, I began to experience more of the fullness of life.