Joy is a choice (3rd week of Advent)
“At the moment of my entrance into this new state I felt a joy so great that it has never failed me even to this day; and God converted the dryness of my soul into a very great tenderness.” (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle)
At the beginning of our infertility journey, I was filled with panic and confusion. I can humbly admit that back then I thought pregnancy and my first child were kind of my birthright. I looked for guidance in all the wrong places in my exterior life that did not align with God’s providence, oftentimes hoping to receive some type of validation that I was not being punished for my sins. To be frank, I felt cursed. No one in my close family or friend groups had ever experienced this and I was feeling “woe is me”, questioning “why me?” It’s safe to say I was slow to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). I had done all the things leading up to my wedding day, clearing house to make more room for God to work in my life, repenting for my sins, preparing intensely for the sacrament of marriage to the love of my life, and feeling closer and more connected to God than I had ever felt. I could see His hand at work in my heart, mind, body and soul. I would pray to the Lord to have mercy on me and receive my prayers, to show me what I was missing.
Open to life
My husband and I met when I was 19 and he was 21, and the four years we dated throughout college were among the most joyful days of my life. I was swept off my feet in love. He proposed to me right before I graduated college while I was studying abroad in Spain, and we were married in August of 2016. We weren’t especially eager to become parents right away: we felt we were still quite young, we had been through a whirlwind of romance, ups and downs and achieving our goals in our 20s that made us want to carve out space and time to revel in the joy of being husband and wife. However, we aligned our hearts with God and were open to life from the start, and we thought we would probably be pregnant by the end of the year. Friends and family were eager for us to become parents, after all we had waited long enough to get married and everyone told us it was baby time. The pressure was on from all angles, and people became boisterous about their opinions on our personal lives. We talked prematurely about baby names, what our baby would look like and all the fun-filled conversations that come with bringing the birth of new life into the world.
Thy will be done
Months and months went by and those conversations started to dwindle. Out of fear, I told people we just weren’t ready to start a family right now but were hopeful for the future when we had our careers and finances in order. It was just the beginning of feeling frustrated with disordered thinking in society around child-rearing. A child is a gift to be received from God! Shouldn’t those with children be teaching me this, not the other way around? I recalled Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth’s stories in the Bible. “We’ll be fine,” I thought. “All in God’s perfect timing. I have to accept God’s will for my life the way Mother Mary did.” The Lenten season rolled around and through intense prayer and reflection, I realized God was calling me to leave the position in the travel industry I had worked hard for. One day at work it dawned on me that I was surrounded by women who had chosen career over family life, and that this career path may be preventing us from getting pregnant. I was under constant stress, working around the clock most days, traveling off and on at the drop of a hat when needed, all while helping my husband grow his cafe and catering business. The Lord advised me it was time to make a choice. I didn’t hesitate and wanted to send a clear message back to God, “I hear you. Thy will be done.”
Communion with God
The world around me started to make less sense. I was under constant trial and tribulation. I was about to start my new part-time job (without health insurance) when I experienced a chemical pregnancy a week before Easter. I had to postpone my job start date and was extremely ill. It was humiliating and painful; I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. The next family member to ask, “So, when are you going to have kids?” was in for it. I can assure you, brothers and sisters, I was not joyful in my affliction. I turned to the Lord and asked Him to clarify his voice, because above all I needed clarity – a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other type of fatherly love. It was the first time in my life the Lord led me to understand the difference between fleeting happiness and spiritual joy. I did not need worldly pleasures, a high-paying salary, recognition at work – I began to get sterner with myself and the intention I had for my life – communion with God. Joy is the response to God dwelling within us, prodding and guiding us until we begin to detach from external pleasures that never truly satisfy the soul.
“Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” (John 16: 23-24)
Joy is a choice
Three years later, I can now sincerely say I am now able to feel the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a joy from that long-ago period of suffering in my life. Joy is a choice. It is not a fleeting emotion of happiness. It’s developed from unification with God himself, which I strongly believe it’s the only way to experience consistent and constant joy in this life. My husband and I still long for a child but we now feel that longing with a sense of peace and joy. No matter what is going on around us, joy is possible in Christ. The more we die to ourselves, the more we find God. The more we find God, the more meaning we have in our lives, and we are able to unite any suffering we experience with the suffering Jesus endured for us. This divine intimacy produces everlasting and abundant joy because it draws us closer to Him and His plans for us, whilst opening our eyes to the gifts we have already received, including the gift of life. We begin to prefer His plan and His plan alone to the point where we forget we even had one ourselves.
Grab a Bible
This week, we invite you to reflect on the following passages in your prayer time.
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Hannah’s Prayer (1 Samuel 2: 1-10)
“If we live by the spirit, let us also be guided by the spirit.” (Galatians 5:25).