I have been playing with Abelton Live the past few weeks, staying up late and creating new musical motifs. This playtime is quite joyful to me…time gets lost…I feel lost in the flow of creativity. It’s similar to the headspace of writing software, or doing sudoku. It is challenging and playful at the same time.
I recall Victor Frankl writing that while in the concentration camp that he played golf in his mind, and it brought him comfort. This is a good reminder that no matter what circumstance, hopefulness and joy are available. However, they don’t always come easily…they can take discipline.
I have had a challenging few weeks, feeling depleted due to a changing schedule and responsibilities. In such circumstances it is easy for me to feel hopeless…the negative feedback loop occurs too easily for me. In such cases the struggle for joy is a discipline. I don’t feel like reading the word. I don’t want to pray. My motivation seems to reach absolute zero.
This is where creating music has been been a gift from God. Even when I am exhausted it seems cathartic to create beats and ambient music. Even away from the computer, I have been drumming on my knees, or creating melodies in my mind. In the making of music I feel renewed…I thank God…and I am stirred to reengage with through spoken prayer and the Word.
Finding the route from melancholy to joy is a discipline. Wallowing is easy. Choosing joy is a discipline made possible through the grace of God. Sometimes it’s a simple as being aware of how God works through our unique personalities to bring us joy. For me it’s often music. For you it might be sewing, or hiking, or poetry, or hunting.
For the believer, we recognize it is not the thing itself that is to be worshiped…it is God that speaks to us through the world around us. The songs of the Bible often express wonder and worry… it’s the blues and gospel music all at once. Read Psalm 13 and feel the despair at the beginning of the song, and yet the discipline of hope emerges as the psalmist says:
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Again…I have had the verse from James in my head, even as I felt like scoffing…”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” It gives me pause…”What is the silver lining? What does God have for me? What lessons must I learn? How can I see God’s joy through my own brokenness?”
Hmm…perhaps that what Sabbath is all about. Taking a break from our self-centeredness. Choosing joy, even when we don’t feel like it. By God’s grace choosing to rest in God in the midst of our hurry and worry and exhaustion.
How are you practicing joy? Can you see the gospel in your blues? What joyful activities has God put in your life that you can use to worship him…even in a time of darkness?
Here’s a sample of the music I have been creating. Feel free to dance along.