“Rejoice in the Lord always…” (Philippians 4:4)

There are times when joy defines us, when we take it as a military stance against the ravages of circumstance and fear. And there are times we watch our soul’s grip let go of it in the onslaught of powerlessness ~ too much unknown, too much gone awry.

We drove through heavy downpour over the muddy roads of post-war Rwanda, peering through rain-soaked windows into the darkness. Our headlights caught flashes of roving gangs, some gathered around fires burning by the roadside. Occasional teenagers in army cammo with auto-matic weapons reminded us of military checkpoints throughout the trip across the border. The night was thick with tension.

Azi drove while Mary navigated, stress between them rising, the sharpness in their voices escalating, Mary unable to find the house. They were on errand, under pressure of family and tribal protocol, but darkness, heavy rain, rampant danger, and poor directions presented insurmountable obstacles.

I sat awkwardly in back, watching one of the most loving couples I know in heated argument. The air inside the van was heavy and tense and uncomfortable. Then silence.

Suddenly Azi broke it with a shout: “NO! I will not give up my joy!” Then gently in his rich African cadence: “Jesus gave it to me a very long time ago and I will not give it away.” Suddenly Peace filled the air, and deep, pervasive Joy. The spell was broken. The circumstances didn’t change, but Heaven filled the van. With that simple choice, Joy overcame.

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