“Sickness comes from lack of joy; healing comes from joy.” - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Adar is the last month on the Hebrew calendar according to the Torah’s reckoning of months. The Sages tell us that the month of Adar is described as the “month of darkness that turns to joy.” This is because of it being the month of the Purim story, where in Haman’s time God’s people were so close to total annihilation. Darkness precedes the light of next month (Nissan) with its themes of liberation and purpose through the Exodus story.
The Jews could have been destroyed during Adar, but through the miracles of Purim, where it only looks like God is not there, God’s people triumph. And darkness is turned to light. So, what’s a people to do when we realize God was there with us all along??
In the quote above by Rebbe Nachman, God empowers the emotion of joy to heal ourselves. This is the month to look for the little things (they can be the most powerful) in life that bring joy – little gifts of the Presence of your good God active in your circumstances. This may be for you (like me) easier said than done. There is such joy we experience when we know God is active in our life, but the flip side is that if/when we don’t “feel” or “see” Him active in our life, we can lose joy.
This month’s Purim theme of “hiddenness” is important to ponder. Let it stick out to you this month and ask the Father what He wants to show you. In His Providence, our Father has decided to conceal His active Presence in this world, instead making it appear as if His actions are acts of nature, random occurrences of life, and things coincidental.
Here’s my working theory on this: Perhaps He hides Himself in the natural occurrences in order to preserve our free will to choose Him? I mean, if He were to show His glory fully (to the extent we can accept it) then really, why would anyone not choose Him? How many times have I prayed for friends, family, my community, etc, Father, if they just knew how good You are, and how You are behind every good gift – that’s it’s all from Your hand – then they’d have no sane option but to choose you!
I say this month let’s take the themes of hiddenness and joy and see what the Father can show us.
Serve the Lord with gladness (simcha); come before Him with joyful singing. Psalm 100:2
That sounds so nice, doesn’t it? Don’t we all want to live with an attitude like this? King David wrote that. This is an expectation of action. “Serve God with simcha.”
Many, many years ago, during Sukkot (The Season of our Joy) I learned an important lesson about being cavalier with God’s commandment to “be joyful” (the same root word as in Psalms 100:2) during the Feast of Trumpets.1 I thought, who wouldn’t be joyful and excited during this week-long celebration? But that was the season my youngest son, who was maybe nine years old at the time, broke his wrist in a really bad place and it wasn’t healing well... and it was the season our family began some hard times with people that we had once trusted… and it was the season our finances weren’t what we needed to make ends meet.
But just because I wasn’t naturally in a place of joy didn’t mean I was exempt from serving God with gladness though. I know you’ve been there too. Maybe you’re there now? “How do I serve Him with gladness when I feel so sad, bad, angry, etc.” What are we to do? It turns out that God helps us in this, too.
I did not win at joy that week. I didn’t win because I thought it was a do or don’t thing that I had to conjure up myself. I didn’t know that the Holy One already had a formula of sorts to help me experience His joy despite circumstances. Of course He has a plan. He never asks us to do something without also making a way.
So important is joy to your wellbeing that the Holy One helps you stay joyful despite life’s swirling circumstances. Countless research shows without a doubt that happiness speeds recovery of physical and emotional ailments. What research doesn’t tell us though, is how to have joy.
With God, nothing has to physically change for you to be happy.
I could delve into the different definitions for happy, joy, gladness and their Hebrew counterparts, but the overall message I want to bring you is that having God in your day-to-day life produces the kind of joy that is lasting, not worldly. When you feel it, you know what I’m talking about. There’s nothing else like it. If you haven’t felt it (or haven’t in a long time) ask the Father for His joy.
My given name is Gail, short for Abigail (but I’m just Gail). One meaning of this name is “My father’s joy.” I used to think it meant the person brings joy to their father. And maybe that’s correct, too. But I’m seeing it differently now. I’m seeing “my Father’s joy” as the joy that the Father has. His joy. He is generous with His joy. It emanates from Him; we get exposed to it as an outgrowth of our close and loving relationship. Proximity to joy breeds joy.
Not feeling joy so much lately? How do you receive what He so abundantly has ready to give you? “You have not because you ask not” sings in my spirit. Not as a taunt or condemnation, but more like: this is something that you didn’t know. The timing is right in this new month; go after it. More joy can be yours. I know this is the month to focus on experiencing all the joy the Father wants to give you. Take a leap of faith and ask Him for “My father’s Joy.”
I’ve learned (pretty recently, actually) that the key that unlocks the vast storehouses of “my Father’s joy” is a simple action on my part. It’s something that I can do in little steps or big steps. There’s no “right way.” The only “wrong way” is to not do it. It’s two-fold and would you believe it, God helps with this too. The key is proximity. Being positionally close to our unseen Father, Who is Spirit. How do you bring Him close?
#1 Look to God for all your needs.
He can and does use people to deliver, but the first step is to ask the Father, not anyone else, for whatever it is that you need. Don’t take anything for granted anymore, assuming it will just be there. It’s there because of Him - not coincidence, not random happenstance, not because of anything you did. Meditate on the fact that everything you have is because of Him. His Providence (His active participation in this world) is what allows you to have all the things you have. Be purposely mindful of this fact. Set visual reminders to help you bring this truth to the forefront of your mind at all times. Ask Him to help you remember.
#2 Thank Him. For everything.
Thank Him for the “good.” Thank Him for the “bad” (that is much harder to do). Know that He only gives to you what you need and everything He does is for your good. I was reminded by a dear friend that in the creation account, the day two separation of waters from waters is not called “good’ like the other days are. It’s not called “not good” either, it just exists as that space of incompletion until the third day when those day two waters are gathered together for a purpose determined by God. I propose that those parts of our experience that we label “bad” are really just day two waiting for day three. Remember that day three represents resurrection!
Thanking Him for the “good” and the “bad” is a high level of faith and takes time to develop. I’ll let you know when I’m there in my faith. I have a long way to go. We are on this earth to learn to trust God and draw closer to Him. He is patient.
That’s it. That’s the secret to happiness, the mystery of “my Father’s joy.” It’s simple, but it takes time; its our life’s pursuit.
The more and more we look to God as a first resort for all our needs, the more we receive and the more opportunities we have to thank Him for His gifts, big and small. This honestly leads to being “happier” or more “joyful” because this is what propels us into proximity to Him, the One who exudes joy. His joy is “catchy” and we get “infected” by it when we are close to Him.
“My Father’s joy” is a by-product of our Emunah – the belief that (1) Everything we have comes from God and He delights to give to us (2) Everything God does is good and for our eternal benefit (3) He is intimately involved in our lives, far more than we’ve realized. We have a lot more to thank Him for than we thought.
The antidote to hard situations isn’t distraction (and worldly things that bring us joy can be distractions), it’s more Emunah, which lead to proximity to Him. What if everything in your life actually could bring you closer to God? Ask Him to open your eyes to see that. Consider God’s Divine Providence having an even greater reach than you think it does. There is so much to be grateful for. And with gratitude comes My Father’s joy.
PRACTICES FOR ADAR