By Katsey Long
A friend told me yesterday that “sometimes, God’s not funny.” I had to think about that, and there have been many times in my life when I have agreed with that statement.
Usually when God’s not funny, it is because I’m in the middle of a struggle or painful situation where some sort of suffering is going on. That suffering can involve the ones I love (whether it is through sickness, accidents, divorce, addictions, or other life situations that get thrown their way). Or that suffering involves me, my work, friendships, relationships, my agenda, my health, my pride, my control of something that just doesn’t seem to be working out like I had planned, or something else along those lines, and God is trying to grow me up and I don’t like it.
No matter what is going on, I always have a choice whether to stay connected to God or to disconnect and spiral into my own misery. If I choose to stay connected to God, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the suffering will go away. It doesn’t mean the pain will stop right away. But what it does mean is that I won’t be alone in it.
Last year I went to “JOY” school for three weeks. It was a fantastic experience, learning about the neurology, psychology and theology of JOY. Our brains are hardwired for JOY and it is the strongest force of our brains.
How do they define JOY? “Happy to be with you.”
When we experience that someone is happy to be with us it turns on our brains and helps our brains to grow. Joy is relational. Joy is contagious. Joy is transforming and improves our immune systems among other things.
God is always glad to be with me even when I’m in pain, not behaving, sad, mad, ashamed or scared. God created us as relational beings in His own image. We thrive in life by interacting with God and other people in loving relationships. That’s JOY. We become truly aware that God is good only when we experience that He is always glad to be with us. Key word: experience.
How do I stay connected to God and experience his presence? Through gratitude.
Feeling gratitude returns our minds back to relationship with God even in the midst of suffering or unpleasant feelings. When we practice gratitude with God, our brains remember what our connection with him was like, making it easier to find our way back to Him.
Living in gratitude and practicing gratitude in the good times helps us to be able to practice gratitude in the times of suffering. Gratitude is deepened when I recognize that everything, even my next breath, is a gift from God.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What are you grateful for today? Tell God and listen to his response. Write it down and tell it to a friend. That will grow joy in you and spread it to others!
About the Author:
Katsey Long is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Jackson, WY, where she works with children, adults and families. She did her undergraduate work at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and received her master’s degree at the University of Denver. Since 1990, Katsey has actively worked to integrate the theological and spiritual framework of her Catholic faith into her profession. For the past 15 years, she has worked with a team of professionals teaching and working with families in the areas of inner healing, as well as generational and family healing, across the United States and in Canada. For the past six years, she has traveled to Rwanda, working in the areas of trauma, forgiveness, and healing wounded history with genocide survivors. Katy is currently executive producer of a documentary film in Rwanda about the power of forgiveness (www.secretofpeace.com). She is a past presenter at the Come and See conference for the Diocese of Cheyenne and International ACT conference, as well as a keynote speaker for the Bishop of Wyoming’s 2006 Women’s Deanery tour and other parish retreats and conferences around the US. Katsey is a member of the Association of Christian Therapists, Catholic Psychotherapy Association, and past president of the Jackson Council of Catholic Women.