It saddens me.
All too often, after some extraordinary experience or event, a degree of tragedy seems to follow just after, daring to undercut the joy from something that was delightful, life-changing, impactful.
I was on the road recently for just over three weeks, privileged to participate in a number of events intended to encourage people who are living in some hard circumstances.
Two days after returning, I have had a fever (topping out at 101.6 so far). There were great experiences while on the road, and I was looking forward to being at home again. But I find myself sick, achy, unable to fully enjoy or reflect on the times I just had or the reality of returning home.
But I’m getting off easy compared to some.
A good friend was struck by significant back pain, causing her to be bed-ridden for the last two days of a conference and putting a damper on her upcoming holiday.
Another friend of mine enjoyed a training event, vacation, and the conference…only to learn during a layover on her way home that her father suffered from bleeding on the brain. She made it home in time to see him in a coma, and to say her final farewells before he passed away.
For each of us there was the opportunity to enjoy a “mountain top” experience as it were–only to then be hit hard by various avalanches. These occurrences are so regular in my observation that I’ve labeled them: joy stealers.
It is a reminder that we live in an imperfect world inhabited by an Adversary. When we might find joy in our togetherness, in learning, in taking a break, some attempt is made to steal it all away, to erase the experience, the memory. It can be so difficult to hold on when struggles and hurts move in to overshadow it all.
It could make me angry–to a degree, it does. I try to prepare, to be on my guard, and to stand guard for others. But the Enemy is insidious. He doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t fight fair.
And we must fight back. I’m planning to spend some time today–despite my illness and fever–reflecting back over the last few weeks, rehearsing the things to be thankful for, the exciting experiences. And I am glad to have some meetings during the upcoming week where reporting back on my travels will be a featured topic. When joy stealers come, we must fight–exert ourselves–in order to take the joy back.
We cannot undo what has been done. One of my friends missed some experiences while lying on her back. The other has lost her father forever. Nevertheless, we can press on, press in, grabbing hold of what we have been given and standing strong against the joy stealers.