Broken Joy

We’ve all been there, in that fragile place where just one small thing is all it takes to tip us toward despair or overload. You know the feeling. In fact, you’ve probably felt it more than once this week.

For me, it was when Joy broke.

All year, I’ve been writing about mountains, the big, unexpected ones which manifest right in the path you are on. Our family has had a few this year.

I’ve also written about joy, surrender, trust and how we get around hard things. I’ve written about the peace that passes understanding and the deep down, that place where God lives deep inside us, anchoring us.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts of 2021 was a wooden carved sign. I even wrote about it and pictured it in one of my blogs. It was carved with a flat base on a couple of the letters, so it stands alone. The one word was Joy.

I had Joy in my kitchen where I could see her multiple times a day. I desperately needed that single word amidst all the mountains, the unrelenting news cycles, the state of our world, communities, schools and churches. I’ve been traumatized, like you have, with all the varied forms of violence, the blaming and the not doing anything to change.

This week, in a freak accident, a bottle of Advil fell, unprovoked, out of the cabinet above, hit Joy just right and she broke into two pieces. I tried to simply set the pieces back where they were, but the breaking caused a loss of stability and balance in that one little word and neither side could stand anymore.

I was alone but I found myself talking out loud to the sign and the mean assaulting bottle of Advil. No, no, not my joy, not today, not right now.

What do you do when Joy breaks? When the diagnosis comes, your loved one takes their last breath, the kids disappoint, the job goes away, the church splits or what you’ve worked hard for gets destroyed? What do you do with excruciating estrangement, war, your worried heart, your wayward relative?

I thought of Senator Cory Booker’s speech during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s rocky journey to the Supreme Court. He tearfully said, No one is stealing my joy. (March 23, 2022)

That was me, alone in my kitchen, speaking to only Advil and broken Joy, No one is breaking my joy. Nope, not today, not ever.

Sometimes we have to fight for Joy. Sometimes we hold onto it by a thread. Sometimes we speak up and cry out even when no one is listening. We claim it as the gift from God that it is, and we defy all efforts to thwart it.

At our house, no matter what, we will bravely glue Joy back together. We will re-balance her and display her again proudly. She will be better because she was broken, and we almost lost her. We will savor her more, knowing what might have been.

This week we faced another medical mountain (which is turning out okay.) Through dealing with that mountain, a nurse was caring for me before a procedure. I asked her name. She said, my first name is Precious. My middle name is Joy. I go by Joy.

I stared at her. Your name, your actual name that your parents gave you is Precious Joy? Yes, she said, some people think it’s weird.

I told her it was the most beautiful name I’d ever heard.

The same week that Joy broke, Precious Joy cared for me as I faced a mountain.

What happens when Joy breaks? In faith, you glue. You re-balance. You treasure it more. You regroup. You re-route, like your car map does when a wreck is ahead, or you take a wrong turn. You scan the horizon for God’s grace and presence through it all. God never disappoints. Joy emerges, always.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. Go to for more blogs, upcoming speaking events and to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle email which will resume in September.

16 thoughts on “Broken Joy”

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