By Julius Gingles '21
I want to feel joy again. I used to love doing my homework and learning. I could see God in the beauty and complexity of knowledge…
I want that feeling again. Kay whispered this to herself, sitting at her dorm room desk as she sluggishly submitted her biochemistry midterm exam at 7:45 am one morning. She could feel the coolness from her windowsill as she slowly rested her head in her arms and scooted her chair out from under the table. Help me to rejoice in these things again.
Later that afternoon, Kay turned to a blank page in her notebook and wrote: Lord, I want the “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”  kind of joy that James encourages his church to have. Help my lips to shout for joy when I sing praises to You . I know you are working in my current circumstances but I can’t tangibly see it right now.
Kay had made the decision a few days before to start using a prayer journal, so that she could be more intentional about reflecting on her faith and honest with herself and God about what she had been feeling. One of her mentors, knowing that Kay loved to write short stories and academic papers at school, recommended this to her. It was also a way for her to express her unfiltered and raw emotions on paper, without feeling the pressure to polish her words in front of others or even before God in prayers voiced aloud.
While continuing her journal entry, Kay decided to open her window and let in some of the gentle breeze starting to come in March. Kay’s joy in the Lord not only came through her love for learning and writing, but also through nature. But the COVID-19 pandemic had made it really difficult to go outside and enjoy the greenery of Providence through the fabric of her N95 mask, so Kay tried each day to remind herself of the majesty of God and the beauty of His creation by looking outside her window and breathing in the crisp air through its creased opening.
I want the “Fill Your church with joy overflowing” kind of joy that Rita Springer so beautifully sings in her song of worship. A joy that isn’t shaken by the stress of homework, the opinions of others, the pains of this pandemic….or really by anything God! I want to be clothed in Your Love and Comfort, like a baby in their freshly washed onesie and blanket. I hate that it's hard for me to enjoy life right now. Your Scriptures make it clear that joy comes from having faith in You, but I can’t seem to feel that right now. I felt it before but this time I’m not too sure how to go about….
*bom bom bom*—there was a sudden knock at Kay’s door.
“Who is it?!” Kay yelled.
“GIRL! It’s me!” Isla, one of Kay’s best friends, exclaimed in an impatient voice.
When Kay looked at the missed calls and texts from Isla, she sprung up from her desk and said sheepishly behind the door, “Oops! I’m so sorry Isla. I kind of forgot that you were stopping by to borrow my phone charger.”
“It’s cool, sis. Could you let me in?”
Before opening the door, Kay stood there and let out a heavy sigh. She knew that she couldn’t hide how she was truly feeling from Isla, but part of her wondered if Isla’s unexpected arrival at her door may have been just what she needed.
As the door creaked open, Kay said, “Hey Isla, come in.”
“How are you feeling, sis? You’ve been doing alright?”
“I mean, I’m okay I guess. I’m hanging in there. How about you?”
Whenever Kay avoided giving details about how she genuinely felt, Isla always picked up on it quickly. This time wasn’t any different.
“But like Kay, how are you actually? Just okay? What’s been going on?
If I was a Debbie Downer and told my friends about all that I’m going through at the moment, I feel like I would be a burden to them. I should just keep it in. God, You know my heart. You carry my burdens. But should I be that vulnerable? Help me, Lord.
“I’ll be honest Isla, my faith hasn’t been where I want it to be lately, but I’m getting through! I feel like when academics aren’t going well, it bleeds into my mental health and my faith. But like, you don’t have to worry! Did you want to chill in my room for a bit before your next class?”
“Nah, it's okay. I’m going to CVS to pick up some snacks. I can bring you back some if you’d like?”
“Sure! I’ll see you when you come back!”
“Just so you know, Kay, I don’t want you to feel like you’re alone in what you are going through. You know I’m here to talk without judgment, right? You are not a burden to me. If you want, I can pray with you when I come back. Or I can just keep you company after my class is finished? Either way, I’m here. You don’t have to put up a front with me, girl!”
“Honestly, I think I’ll be fine! I’m…” Okay, maybe I’m not okay. But I don’t want to address these internal issues either… I need to get out of my head. I need to be less stubbor….
“You’re right. I’d really appreciate your company. Let’s talk after class.”
As she waited for her best friend to return, she continued writing in her journal:
I’m not too sure how to go about “counting it all joy” as I struggle with mental health, not placing my worth in my productivity, and feeling like I am not enough for anyone. But I surrender it all to you, Lord. I place my full trust in You. You remind me that I am not alone and to lift my head to You. Even though I don’t have immediate relief from this numbness, I will wait on You. I won’t give up because I know that You are with me through it all. May you provide me with the patience and endurance to trust in Your perfect timing, just as the prophetess Anna waited, worshipped, and fasted for 84 years in your temple until Your coming . May your Holy Spirit intercede in my prayers and make me aware of Your presence when I am downcast. May the presence of Isla and my brothers and sisters around me help me to feel the joy of community once more. You are everything that I need, and I long for the everlasting joy that comes from You alone. I will continue to seek you day and night and meditate on Your promises. I know You will answer. I am ready to be clothed in Your joy. I need You. I will wait on You.
Kay could feel a rush of peace as she continued writing. Thank you Jesus for this precious life you have been given me...I give it all to You. Once she finished that sentence, she hopped onto her bed, lay her head back on her pillow, and closed her eyes. She wanted to let God speak to her in the silence of her room. She then whispered in a soft voice, I will wait on You.
: James 1:2 ESV
: Psalm 71:23 ESV
: Luke 2:36-38 ESV
Illustration by Elizabeth Tai '23