As I balanced my ipad on my lap I slowly looked through the concordance’s references to the word “Joy” in the Hebrew texts. The reason for my search was my hope to unlock something, anything about Joy. Not the superficial happiness that we are sold on every corner by our society, but an uplifting spiritual joy. It had been a few days of depression that had put me on this biblical trail. I know the drill, in a few days it will pass. I also know coping mechanisms that help. Yet, I thought that if I did not do this research during a depressive episode then I would forget to do it when I was not desiring Joy. In the concordance I was reminded that king’s joy was made full by the strength of God, that Joy can be taken away by a distraught God, that joy is accompanied by shouting, it can be shown in singing and that there is hope that mourning can be turned into joy.
As I finished reading the texts on Joy from Jeremiah I saw my favorite neighbor Bill walking his dog. He almost hesitantly approached my porch and I had not noticed him because my head was down. It has been a terrible year for my neighbor. His husband Fred has suffered a serious period of cancer. Through surgeries and rehab he has returned home cancer free. Yet, the “cured” frail man that I see is so weak that often I don’t even recognize him.
This morning I feared that something bad had happened to Fred because of the awkward way in which he approached me. When he said, “You might pray for…” and because his sentence contained so much pain it trailed off imperceptible.
“I am sorry, I couldn’t hear what you said.” I responded.
He pointed to his trusty dog Midas and said, “I have to put him to sleep today. They found a mass in his head.”
“Oh sweetie!” I said reaching down to touch his beloved friend.
As I petted him I could see the weepy bulging right eye that indicated that everything was not all right. Midas was exceptionally slow this morning and was clearly laboring to walk. My heart filled with sadness.
“I am so sorry,” I said as I stood and gathered Bill in my arms. I could feel his him relax into a hug and his shoulders heave in sobs.
“I will keep you all in my prayers.”
“Thank you” was the resigned response as Bill turned to walk along. As he left I could see him wiping his eyes.