I’ve heard people say joy is different from happiness and my response has always been, “Then I don’t want joy. Let me be specific: I want happiness.” Because if that’s true, joy suggests some things besides happiness and I don’t want my happy mixed with pain or sadness or confusion. So when I heard about opening up to God’s gifts no matter what they were, I was stunned. No more opening to what I deemed good and trying to dodge tragedy? Ann Voskamp compares it to shielding the joy flame inside your palm to protect it from the elements. In her book, 1000 Gifts, she says, “My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light.”

So you can’t have one without the other. If I’m feeling, I’ll feel both. If I’m numb, I’ll feel neither. As someone who’s tried to be strategically choosy all these years, this seems like bad news, but maybe joy is much stronger than I thought. Maybe it’s fierce enough to coexist with serious pain. So if pain isn’t the joy-snatcher, maybe a closed, hard heart is. One that’s constantly resisting half the things life finds on its path. But God promised to switch out our stony hearts for flesh ones, pumping with life. Maybe I want a life that feels everything and accepts everything I find on my journey. This finally explains what Jesus said about people trying to save their lives losing them and people who lose their lives finding them. He wants me to know about the joy flame.  He wants me to open up to Him and stop grasping and snuffing out the very life I long for.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26