The Joy Candle
Judy and I were blessed this year to be asked to light the Joy Candle during the third week of Advent.
Previously we had lit the Hope Candle and the Love Candle. It seems each year, our pastor has chosen the candle that I needed to light for that year.
The Joy Candle was ideal, because just a little over three months earlier, over Labor Day weekend, my wife drove me to the ER with excruciating pain. Only a few people can claim their first episode of kidney stones was a blessing. But this time, it truly was. Because of the CT Scan they took for the stones, they discovered a malignant solid mass on my left kidney.
Sure, my first thought was “God, how could you do this to me. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, and there are 80 year old men running around smoking two packs a day.” But then I realized, for 15 years I’ve preached in my blogs, speeches and books that no one controls our happiness, our joy, besides ourselves. No one can give it to us. No one can take it away from us. So my only prayer was that God would help me keep the same joy in my heart that I’ve had for the last 15 years.
Two months later, on November 4, I had a partial nephrectomy of my left kidney. A month later, both kidneys are working fine, and pathology tests showed no remaining cancer. My wife, a retired Urology nurse, told me if it had not been for this early detection, it may have been several years before the cancer would have been discovered, and the prognosis would not have been as promising. And God truly answered my prayer. Since Labor Day weekend, I enjoyed the most awesome Joy I have ever continuously experienced.
What is Joy?
In my book Climbing Mt. Happiness: The Haynes Hierarchy of Hope and Happiness I show different levels of Happiness. The lowest level is Hope. The highest level, the level each and every one of us should strive for, is JOY.
One major dictionary defines Joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” Well, I’m sorry but I take exception to that definition. Joy can’t be bought. It can’t be obtained by becoming successful at the expense of working 70 hours a week and spending no time with your family. It is only reached by building layer upon layer of happiness, until a person is about to burst open with this joy.
Joy is looking upon, or holding, your child for the first time. It is looking into the eyes of the person you love, and knowing without doubt you want to spend the rest of your life with them, as you say “I Do.” It is standing on the beach, just as the sun peeks over the seascape, and you realize how great it is to be alive.
I think of Joy as an abundance of happiness. By abundance I don’t mean making more money than everyone else, having a better car than your neighbor, or having more toys than you know what to do with. The abundance I’m speaking of is the abundance of the things that help you make the life of all around you better. It’s having the a large quantity of the things that money can’t buy, such as health, love and support of your family and friends, and an endless faith that assures you that you’ll never have a burden you can’t bear with the help of God.
So today, Judy and I lit the Candle of Joy. After the service, I blew out the altar candles, the Hope Candle, The Love Candle, and the Joy Candle. My prayer for you is that God will light your Joy Candle within your heart, and it will burn eternally. Its flame will be so magnificent, that it will light the Joy Candle of everyone you come in contact with.
I am in the process of writing an accounting of the time following the discovery of my cancer, until the surgery and recovery. It’s called Happiness is….Surviving Cancer: My 73-Day Pilgrimage from Discovery to Recovery. It is a journal of all the things I did during those days to keep joy in my heart. If you, or anyone you know, are facing the challenges of cancer, I think it may be a blessing to you. It includes photos and short videos. If you’d like to receive a free download of this, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject line, put your name and “surviving cancer”