Joy comes in many forms. Many of us feel joy after good things take place, like finishing a task or celebrating a special event with family. However, joy can also emerge from the tough parts of life, like from an unfortunate accident or poverty.
As Catholics, we have heard about the joy of the poor from saints like Mother Teresa, who is known to have left happiness to find joy. The Church Life Journal of the University of Notre Dame, speaking about Saint Teresa, says, “The difference between happiness and joy is that happiness avoids suffering and joy endures suffering in hope. To say that Mother Teresa left happiness to find joy means that she went towards suffering in hope. The suffering was not first hers, though it became hers because she stayed close to those who suffered.”
We tend to join in the suffering of others, supporting our friends and family in their suffering (a blog coming soon by Tammi). We offer them support, love, and hope, and we want to help them in any way we can. We make sure they are taking it easy, not overworking themselves, and that they have everything they need. Their suffering ends up becoming ours, as well, like Mother Teresa experienced, and we can find the joy in the midst of it.
When we have our own sufferings, it can feel difficult to find joy. It can feel like there are so many reasons to lose hope and faith. I have felt this throughout my current suffering, after getting into a car accident.
About My Car Accident
On Thursday, October 21, 2021, I was on my way to pick up my grandpa from his house. I was driving down the same street I’ve driven many times, but that day, when the small intersection light turned green, I was hit by an oncoming car. It all happened so quickly, I got out of the car in complete disbelief. My car had been pushed into the median when the speeding car drifted across the street.
At the moment, I was shaking and scared, but looking back, I am immensely grateful for all the kind people who stopped to check on me after seeing the accident happen. My little 2019 Honda Civic Sport braced the crash with such grace. It called the police for me and kept me safe.
I feel in my soul that I was heavily protected from receiving any worse injuries than I did. At the speed the other car was going, it should have been worse, but I have only suffered a broken bone in my left dominant hand.
Over the course of a month, I went through dealing with insurance with the help of my attorney, undergoing surgery to fix my hand, and beginning physical therapy. If you have read some of my previous blogs, you would know that I am a doer. It was hard for me to rest under normal circumstances; imagine my struggle being completely out of commission. I did no work as a copywriter or social media manager for a whole month, and I was prevented from doing my passions of makeup and cosplay. This one month felt like an entire year.
My Initial Feelings
The first week post-accident, I experienced heavy feelings of PTSD. I couldn’t do anything without thinking about the crash, remembering how shocked and scared I felt at that moment. Not wanting to feel this way anymore, I shortly after made a few promises with myself:
- The first promise I made with myself was not to think about the “what ifs,” like what if I left the house later, what if I went a different way, or what if I lingered at the light a little longer. I knew “what ifs” like these would lead me nowhere.
- My second promise with myself was to offer up everything to the Lord.
- Third, I was not going to be embarrassed to ask for help.
- And lastly, I will find the joy amidst this suffering.
Since being told I had a broken bone in my writing hand, I knew the path to recovery was going to be long. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go back to “normal” for a long time (I am currently writing this blog with voice to text, instead of being able to type it myself). I felt sad knowing I’ll be unable to be creative with my makeup for a while, as that is my creative outlet. I slowly started to realize all of the everyday things I couldn’t do on my own anymore.
Even though I felt sad about all these things initially, I immediately thought of the bright side, looking to solutions I could do instead.
Gratitude Was My Attitude
Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I was grateful for what I could do, and I kept my promises in mind. I was grateful that it was only my hand that was broken, that nobody else got hurt, and especially that I had people to help me.
I am truly grateful for all my family and friends. Because everyone was worried about me, they offered advice and assistance, which helped immensely. One of my mom’s co-workers recommended an attorney, which relieved all of my anxiety. The attorney I was able to find me a doctor, deal with the insurance, and keep in touch with me to answer all my questions throughout this process. They were truly a gift from God to help me navigate this uncertain time, I am grateful to have them.
Because I am such a workaholic, I was so worried about not being able to work. I am thankful for Lisa, our founder, and my copywriting boss, for being patient with me and making sure I prioritized resting over working.
It’s always baffled me how the suffering and the poor can find such joy. By going through my own small suffering, I have started to understand how that joy can be found. In order to understand why I have felt joy, I had to first understand what joy is.
We tend to put joy in the same category as happiness and excitement, when in actuality “happiness” can be described as an emotion, while “joy” is more properly related to a state of one’s being. One of the Greek translations of joy or gladness is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for grace. We recognize that chara (joy) is produced by the charis (grace) of God. This means that true joy is divine in origin, flowing from the grace of God.
During the difficult moments in my life, I always seemed to find joy. I now know it is from the grace of God, because I have always called on him amidst my suffering. This one Bible verse from Philippians kept popping up during the first month post-accident:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”Philippians 4:6
[BONUS: Watch + listen to this Scripture in a 5-minute Video Guided Meditation to calm anxiety.]
Instead of feeling frustrated or annoyed by what I couldn’t do, I found joy in learning how to optimize my right hand, and in successfully learning how to apply makeup with my right hand alone. From the first day of the accident to now, I have made my requests known to God, and I have been given His joy and peace.
Suffering = Joy… According to the Saints
The Saints are actually the experts on the subject of suffering. Many have what seems to us as an irrational love of suffering. Beloved Saints share their thoughts saying:
Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Saviour; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the purer the love.”St. Faustina
For my heart is always with Him… within it arises this desire: not to die, but to suffer long, to suffer for God, to give Him its life while praying for poor sinners.St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.St. Maximilian Kolbe
Desire suffering?! I’ve always wondered why Saints spoke of suffering in such a way, so I turned to my patron, St. Francis of Assisi, for answers. The Capuchin Franciscans share 7 Life Lessons from St. Francis, where one of the lessons is that God speaks through our suffering. Francis went through much physical suffering and illness throughout his life in pursuit of Christ. “Like Francis, we will all encounter suffering in our walk with Christ. We must never see suffering as a proof of God’s absence. Rather, we must see with St. Francis of Assisi that God works through our suffering, teaching us to love, to trust, and to bear our burden with humility and patience.”
Throughout his lifelong suffering, Francis experienced great peace that can only come from the Lord. The road to follow Christ is hard. He even tells us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Instead of focusing on the hardships of suffering, let us take up our cross and follow Him. I know I have been trying to live this way after my accident and in return, I have been gifted with peace and joy that can only be coming from the Lord.