If you were to go through my journal over the last several years you would find a consistent prayer etched into the worn pages. You would read of a yearning to be refreshed with joy. I have stewed and questioned God, “where, O God, is this joy you promise? Where is this joy that is a fruit of the spirit? Why am I not joyful? Why is there a gap between my heart for you and the level of joy that exists in my life?”

My push-pull, my tug of war with God, is most often about ME! Turns out that the root of this prayer is about me wanting to be in control. It is about me wanting to be “independent” but for God to fix my mess or meet my need according to my preferred method of repair. 

You may be wondering why and how joy and and control or independence correlate. I have been learning that my lack of joy is wrapped in the pursuit of independence and missing the fact that I need God so desperately. 

If I’m honest, I don’t want to need anyone. I want to be self-sufficient.

The truth is, I am not okay with needing God. I’m not okay with the fact that I need to be dependent on him. Dependent. Dependence. In my world of performance, and “got-get-em” drive to be successful, this word dependence, well it just didn’t exist. 

The only way this word existed in my vocabulary was referring to someone else, my child, or with two little letters “in-” infront of it. There is no pride to be found in dependence. Well duh. God doesn’t want my pride. He wants my humility, not proof of what he already knows, my abilities and limitations.

The thought of this being a dependent was an oxymoron when compared to the notion of joy. Again in my world, dependence was not something I would celebrate. Dependence was not something I would strive to participate in. Quite the opposite. Independence wass the perpetual striving force for me.

But my pursuit of independence stole away a joy that was possible by placing my dependence on God. Trust me, I got it, in my mind’s eye. But it was my heart that had yet to fully grasp the joy of dependence. It’s one of those biblical concepts that had not translated from my head to my heart. I was still a hearer of this word, instead of a sold out doer of dependence.

Just the thought of feeling or being “needy” made me cringe and I want to revolt. Sounds strange I know. But so it was with me that God placed this purposeful phrase – joyful dependence- in my heart, for such a time as this. 

This past Sunday I hit a crossroad. A reckoning, so to speak, of this incessant quest to be independent. To feel “in charge” of self and “able” to do and succeed at whatever comes my way. It was a crossroad where I needed the joy of the Lord, and needed therefore to rest and depend on Him.

I sat in a fetal position in my desk chair, face to face with the emotion of what I have left behind as we started a new adventure of life in Florida. It was the first time I had given myself permission to feel the emotions. It was the first time in months I was honest with myself about how I was feeling. 

You know what, there I sat, all alone in my independence. And independence didn’t feel so good. Independence felt raw, empty and void of hope.

Until this moment the emotions had been bottled up and I yielded to their strength, at work on me from the inside out. The bottling caused my mind to short out and not think clearly. The bottling of my emotions caused me to disconnect from friends and family. The bottling caused me to put up walls and operate out of an Eeyore mindset.

The emotional overload caught up to me. I was in desperate need of joy, but was also sideswiped by this battle of self. It was a battle of believing that I need to be and do it all, all on my own. “Wasn’t I taught to be independent? To stand on my own two feet? To not need anyone?” 

The push/ pull and tug of war continued between my mind and heart. I was taught to be independent. So why now, in these moments did I feel so in need? Why did I feel so dependent? This is not how it is supposed to go for me. I was independent, right? Why then did I feel so dependent? And how in the world was I supposed to feel joyful about this neediness?

“Joy? Where are you, joy?” I cried out. In my striving for independence and proving I am able, all on my own, the joy was sucked out of me, like the pull of the drain plug. It was a “come to Jesus” moment where the realization was that my joy was missing because I was still trying to be independent and not resting in my dependence on God.

Why are joy and dependence on God linked together? 

Joy, as I believe God is showing me through the recent events in my life, comes through surrender. Joy comes from realizing I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to perform. I don’t have to “be successful”. Joy comes from being okay with my dependence on God. 

I need him. I need him desperately. And if I am honest, it is one thing to need him – I have known that for quite a while. But it is a whole other notion to agree with all my mind, soul and heart that I am okay with, and even more than that, I am great with the fact that I need God. 

It is a whole other notion to say, “I can’t do this on my own. I need you God. I need your help, and I want your help. I want you to take over. I not only need but I want you.”

When I learn to depend on God, for my coming and going, for my success and to cover my failures with his grace, I no longer need independence. Independence becomes unattractive, unnecessary and frankly not impactful.

What is possible with my independence, when compared with my dependence on God, is not even able to be compared on the same measuring scale. What’s possible with God working in and through me far outweighs, outlasts, outworks and outperforms anything I could do on my own. When I write these words, when they begin to soak in joy wells up inside of me. 

When I looked up from my flowing tears, there sat my daily scripture calendar which read, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Rejoice always, pray continually. Praying continually means that I recognize my dependence on God. I recognize that His will is being done. Because he is a good God, all powerful and mighty, I can trust his will, rejoicing with a grateful heart.

In my quest for independence I can assure you, it is not all it is chocked up to be. My quest to independence has led me to the recognition of my desperate need to depend on my God and Savior, Jesus Chist, to work all things out according to his good and perfect will. 

My challenge for you today is to take a look within yourself. Are you struggling to find joy? Do you need more joy? If you do, could it be that you have been striving out of your quest for independence and therefore have missed out on the joy God has for you. You can depend on God. The question is will you? Will you choose to depend on him or will you choose to pursue your own strength.