As a society, we think a lot about happiness. It’s the reason our culture thrives on things like fashion, entertainment, and the idea of doing what makes us happy. But this pursuit of happiness can get a bit out of hand, especially when we lose sight of the difference between joy and happiness.
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The Pursuit of Happiness
As we pursue happiness, we find ourselves trying more and more things as the thrill gets less with each attempt. Our pursuit of happiness in our society has led to a kind of “anything goes” mindset. We do anything we please including drugs, sex, and immoral behavior. We do this because we think these things will make us happy.
But do we really know how to find joy in our lives? Are we even supposed to be looking for our joy in this world?
As Christians, we are called to a different life. We are told to pursue joy because happiness is fleeting and often elusive. An easy way to understand the difference between joy and happiness is to remember that unhappiness a response to our environment and circumstances while joy is an experience we have regardless of the circumstances.
The importance of finding joy in spite of our circumstances may be the reason James wrote these words to the early church:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3 NKJV).
These are hard words because the last thing you want to do when you’re in the middle of a trial is to try to be happy. The last thing that’s on your mind when you’re going through a hard thing is how to find joy. But joy is a lot deeper than that. Joy is external to human character and is found only in God.
Where does your joy come from?
Okay, I admit it. I know I should learn how to find joy in my faith and belief in God but sometimes I get caught up in my circumstances. I become unhappy because I take my eyes off God and put it on what’s happening in my life. I saw a lot of that in the book The Joy of Falling. Both widows had linked their happiness to their husbands’ lives so when the men died…they floundered. I have to admit, it was a deep lesson.
It’s important for us to learn that our joy shouldn’t come from stuff or even people. Our joy should come from our relationship with and dependence on God.
How to Find Joy in the Lord
One of the best biblical examples of how to find joy in the Lord is the apostle Paul. He went through so much for his faith. He was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, hated by his former comrades, and faced opposition in basically every town he set foot in. Yet, he remained faithful.
Let’s face it, a lot of us go through fewer trials than Paul did and we waver in our faith. We walk away from God. We give up on finding our joy in Him. So, how did Paul remain so hopeful even when he was in prison isolated from his friends?
If you read the book of Philippians–a letter written in a prison cell–you will find it full of hope and joy. You’ll also find a lot of references to prayer. Paul prayed for the people close to his ministry. He prayed for those he knew were struggling. He prayed for those he knew were of the faith.
Ultimately, if we are to find our joy in the Lord, we will have to spend time working on our relationship with him. We will have to become praying women…bringing our petition to God but also allowing silence so that God can speak to you.
The Joy of Falling Review
When James encouraged the believers to consider all things joy when they went through trials, he was trying to remind them to keep their focus on God.
Too often though, we allow people and things to take the place of God in our lives. We expect them to bring us joy and then are surprised when they fail to do so.
I saw some of that in The Joy of Falling. Both Eva and Angela initially found their joy elsewhere. Both characters had wrapped their ability to find joy in their spouses, a foundation which crumbled when their husbands died.
The story of Eva and Angela’s life after both of their husbands perished in an accident paints a portrait of how the grief process differs for each of us. Angela is nowhere near as eager as Eva is to embark on a journey to complete an ultramarathon their husbands had signed up for before their death despite having been a runner in college. Yet it is the process of training and completing the race that forces her to finally confront her grief and how she felt about some of the choices her husband had made before her death.
Eva, unlike Angela, seemed to embrace her grief and had given up pieces of herself to live in the shadow of her dead husband. She couldn’t figure out how to find joy in her life without him.
During the course of training for the race, both women learn much about themselves, their husbands, and each other. Eva and Andrea started the book as two women grieving separately for their husbands but in the end, became a family. They figured out how to find joy in little things and in the company of the family and loved ones who were still alive.
Know God–the faith elements were faint and I had hoped to see the characters truly learning into their Heavenly Father for strength. There was some of that but it was mostly seen in the secondary character Sherry, mother in law of both women, who had also lost her husband. But the truth still stands. God understands our pain and he wants us to choose him at all times. He’s waiting to bind up our wounds and heal our pain.
If we want to truly learn how to find joy, we have to learn to depend on God.
Know yourself–there was another of self-exploration in this book. Both Eva and Angela had to learn how to stand on their own after their husbands’ deaths. They had to relearn what they loved and seek out new passions and desires. They had to figure out how to find joy after their husbands’ deaths.
The invitation is there for all of us. How many of us have fallen into a rut? Or simply allowed life to run away our dreams and desires? We need to spend time learning more about what we’re capable of because that’s the only way we will truly become the person God created us to be and embrace his healing for our lives.
Run your race–The characters in this book literally had to run a race. But they learned that it was okay to walk when you don’t have the strength to run. They learned to accept help and lean on others. They learned to work as a team. While it’s important not to compare ourselves to other people, we have to learn to coexist with them, to support and accept support as we do our best to fulfill our part in God’s master plan.
The book started out lamenting Eva’s desire for color and I got that. It was the perfect analogy for an artist who felt they had lost their ability to create. But while it was mentioned several times throughout the book, her actions contradicted her words. She was too appreciative of the beauty in nature and too caught up in the taste of food. But I did enjoy that the author took us through the complete cycle of Eva’s belief about herself. She started out not being able to find color but she didn’t end the book that way.
The Joy of Falling is a tale of love lost and the journey from grief to new beginnings. It’s a lesson on how to find joy. It’s a poignant reminder that life doesn’t always turn out how we want it to but we have a choice how we respond. We can choose to mourn what’s lost and wallow in despair, or we can celebrate our experiences and seek to find the lesson in our experiences.
I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publishers through Celebrate Lit and NetGalley; a positive review was not required. Purchase The Joy of Falling on Amazon.
About The Joy of Falling
Eva and Angela must learn to live again. One step at a time.
It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.
But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.
Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?
About Lindsay Harrel
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd with a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in English. She lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Lindsay has held a variety of jobs, including curriculum editor for two universities, medical and business writer, and copywriter for a digital marketing agency. Now she juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with working freelance jobs, teaching college English courses online, and–of course–writing novels.
When she actually has time to do other things, she loves to sing, read, and sip passion iced teas from Starbucks. She loves to watch God work in ordinary lives to create something extraordinary, and she writes to bring hope to those who may have lost it along the way. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com and any other place she hangs out online, including Facebook and Twitter
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