Finding Joy

(Photo by Selma Komisky)

Finding Joy

By Joy Wilson DeFraene

In July of 2018, God performed a miracle in my heart. It’s only by His grace that I was able to reach out for help when I needed it the most. I experienced my first trauma at the age of 18, which was a pivotal moment in my life. It was during that time that I decided to turn my eyes away from Jesus and fight the battle myself. I thought that my giant was bigger than Him and that it was up to me to fight it. I constantly asked myself, “If God could fight my battles, why didn’t he fight this one for me?” This question pushed me further away from Christ. Even though I was brought up going to church and baptized at 16 years old, I never truly believed that God could heal me and I didn’t trust Him to protect me. To me, God was an entity that was bigger than I could fully understand. Rather than trusting in His will, I chose to be mad at Him and decided to trust worldly things. While I continued to go to church and appeared to be a follower of Christ, my heart became impure, my faith shattered. This was the beginning of my 20 year struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

This November marked the 6th year since my father was tragically hit by a car. Because of the abruptness of his death, I could never have been prepared for that day.  I was very close to my father and knowing that he left this earth before I could say goodbye crushed my heart. Losing him was overwhelmingly difficult for me. The pain I felt was unbearable and it caused my depression to worsen. I was determined to find ways to not feel any pain from my grief, doing everything I could to ignore it. With my doctors’ support, I was able to learn many healthy ways to cope with my burdens. I started eating balanced meals, getting good rest, exercising, writing in my journal, painting, spending time with family, finding sanctuary, praying and reading my bible. Because I did not make a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior a priority in my healing process, my depression became uncontrollable. I was desperate to end the pain and resorted to unhealthy ways to cope with my grief and depression: not eating, not exercising, sleeping too much, isolating, overworking, drinking and fixating on others’ problems.

I was completely devastated when my father died, but knowing he did not suffer, I slowly began to accept my grief and trust God with my pain. My spiritual growth and healing began when I allowed Jesus to come into my heart. I started listening to worship music on the radio and noticed that my heart was softening. I laid all my burdens at His feet and devoted myself to building a relationship with Him through prayer and worship, planting the seed that led to my return to Jesus. My faith was the size of a mustard seed, but that’s all it took to keep my focus on Him. He helped me have gratitude and showed me how to be thankful for my two fathers in heaven, my Heavenly Father and my earthly Father. Acknowledging what I was thankful for helped me see what God wanted me to see. Though I still felt pain from grief, God provided me with strength to praise Him and to trust in His will, not mine. I finally believed that He would provide healing and comfort, allowing me to see the miracles that illuminate over me like rainbows during a storm.

Since my father passed away, our family has endured added tragedy and heart break, more than we could have ever imagined. It has been an emotional roller coaster filled with grief, confusion, sorrow, and pain. My oldest brother’s son, Jarrid Wilson, lost his battle to depression this past September. Because Jarrid lived a full life that was dedicated to sharing his love for Jesus Christ with everyone he met, his sudden death was overwhelmingly heartbreaking.  My family is still trying to navigate through life on earth without him by trusting our Lord and Savior. Even through this storm, we have faith and trust in His will.

For the past year and half, I have been on an amazing journey of mental and spiritual healing. Because of this, I have been better prepared to trust God and know that He will be present through any situation. Before God performed a miracle in my heart, I was exhausted and more lost than ever. I had no hope, only seeking help because my nephew, Jarrid, encouraged me to do so. He would tell me, “It’s okay to ask for help,” and “asking for help does not make you weak.” Because of his encouragement, I decided to take a step back and revaluate my life. I was desperate to find help and finally realized that the only true relief would be given to me by Jesus Christ. Because it was His blood that ran red to wash my sins white, I decided to put God before everything.

The first days that I spent alone with my Lord and Savior, were the most important days of my recovery. It was at that time that I fully began to heal from my past and recover from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  I had been lost for so long, but I realized that God was by my side the whole time. He never let me go. Even when I didn’t see Him or feel Him near me, God answered every prayer and comforted me throughout my life.

I used to think that finding joy meant finding happiness and eliminating my pain, but now I understand what finding Joy truly means. It means finding myself as a child of God and allowing Him to lead me every moment of every day. I want Him to have all of me and make me into the best version of myself. Every day I put on God’s armor and allow Him to fight my battles, whether they are big or small. For I know no giant is bigger than He. By learning that God is present in every trial and tribulation, I have given Him my battles. I understand that He is available to help, listen, comfort, and guide us.  It’s our decision to listen to Him and trust His will. If we allow Him to, he will guide us and lead us down a righteous path. I’ve learned that my faith in God, even during trials, can bring happiness and joy. God has relieved me of my burdens, helping me find true contentment in trusting Him and knowing that He is in control. While searching for joy, I found myself, finally bringing out the woman that God planned for me to be.

On my way to work this morning, I saw a beautiful rainbow, reminding me of the miracles that God provides and how He turns ashes into beauty. During last year’s fire season, fires covered our community in ash. The rain that proceeded washed most of the ashes away and I know that this year’s rain will wash away the rest. Seeing the rainbow after the stormy night we had, also reminded me of how Jesus paid the ultimate price of suffering so that we could live in eternity. His blood ran red while our sins washed white. What a glorious image to hold close to our heart. As the New Year approaches and resolutions are being made, I want to encourage others to believe that God continually makes us new. If we trust in His will, every moment of every day brings a fresh beginning.