Naming Joy: A cynic’s search for hope

In a recent conversation with my sister, we talked about the many personal struggles we are experiencing and witnessing in others. In our very connected world, the personal difficulties and setbacks we experience feel hard, but set against a backdrop of tragedy in our social networks, local issues, and national issues, it is overwhelming. I feel tired and cynical.

I want to feel connected to hope and change, to be part of positive change in my community, but it is hard to engage that work from a place of overwhelm, tiredness, and hopelessness. This week I learned that a friend and colleague was the victim of a violent hate-related incident in my community. It left me feeling stuck in sadness and anger. I sat in my office trying to avoid my feelings and got nothing done. Last night, I was invited to give the opening prayer at a city council meeting in a neighboring city. When I prayed for under-represented folks in the community, people in the audience giggled. A few months ago, I was trying to pause during moments of joy to name and feel the goodness and connectedness of that emotion. In the last few weeks, those flashes of joy have vanished.

Right now, I am searching for hope by trying to name my sources of joy, even as I struggle to connect with those feelings. In my digital ministry class, I recently had an assignment to pick some verses from the Psalms and put them into a video with music. I used The Message Bible, because I like the freshness of the contemporary language, found some verses that spoke to me, and paired them with some photos of my girls, dogs, and husband. I changed the pronouns for God from “he” to “she.” I typically detest inspirational media, but I think that this assignment is helping me remember hope as I am reminded of the image of God in my children. I see their joy, curiosity, and wisdom and that feels like God in this moment.

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