High School was a really difficult time in my life. My home life was dysfunctional at best which often led to shouting matches and fights with my parents. It was my Junior Year, however, that something inside of me changed. I became a Christian and found this joy that never made any sense because despite the abuse and junk of my home life, I came to school with a smile on my face.
I came to school one day after a particularly stressful weekend (which was made very public) and was approached by one of my teachers who asked, “How do you keep smiling with everything going on?”
Without thinking I blurted out, “It’s because of Jesus.”
What many people who know me today don’t realize is that I didn’t always have the smile I am most known for. It wasn’t until I came to know Jesus as Lord that this huge smile became a regular thing. I love my smile… it helps me understand the transformation that Christ has caused in me and it reminds me that He continues to provide all of my needs.
For a lot of reasons, the smile that I love has been a rarity for me lately as I find most days to be a struggle.
BUT NOT TODAY!
Today I was on my way to a worship service at Trinity Life Ministries in Crawfordsville where I lead worship and I was singing the song Way Maker to help prepare me for the service. By the end of the song I was lost in worship as I was pulling into the parking lot. I took a deep breath and felt the muscles in my mouth stretch as far as they could, my cheeks lifted, and my eyes felt brighter than they had in a long time.
The smile came back.
Do I think that I am now cured of my depression, anxiety, or PTSD? Of course not, but I do not have to be cured in order to have a smile on my face. I can be joyful and still struggle with mental health. I know it doesn’t make any sense, it certainly doesn’t to me, but I like how my friend Jessica put it, “If it made sense, it wouldn’t be a mental illness.”
I started this post after reading Hebrews 12:1-2 because it reminded me about Jesus having joy while staring down his own trauma… death on a cross. Jesus knew He was going to die. He knew His disciples would run away scared for their lives. He knew that His own creation would spit at him, they would hit him, they would strip him of his pride. Jesus knew without a shadow of a doubt that He would be crucified, and yet…
Jesus had joy despite His trauma.
I don’t know what you are going through today, but I do know that if Jesus can have joy in spite of His trauma, so can we. We can despise the shame of our own trauma, we can despise the shame of our own anxiety and depression by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the one who has been through it all and still had joy.
Honestly, I may not have this smile tomorrow. If I have learned anything through this journey, however, it is this: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own” (Matthew 6:34). So today I am going to enjoy my God-given smile despite everything going on, I hope you can do the same.
Peace, Love, and Soul