Joy in Difficult Times

A friend recently wrote to me:  “You sign your emails, ‘May joy be yours,’ and I gladly open my heart to receive this prayer.  If you can stay in touch with your joy during this horrible time, I want to find out more about how you do it.”

I wrote him back: “I do very much believe that joy, (unlike happiness which is always dependent on circumstances), can be ours even and especially in the midst of difficult times. Perhaps a good way of explaining this is by sharing a letter I just wrote to some other dear friends — two busy professionals — who completely rearranged their day yesterday on a moment’s notice to make Elizabeth and me a meal that I could enjoy before undergoing a new set of nausea-producing chemo treatments:

Dear Paula and Carl, (and Elizabeth too),

Please don’t be upset by the lateness of the hour marked on this email. I woke up because I have something on my mind and need to share it with you. That “something“ is gratitude!

I know what you two did yesterday. At the last minute, you  completely rearranged your day and your priorities because doing something loving for me was what was most important for you. Paula and Carl, you must have spent half the day running around, shopping for, cooking and grilling that incredible gourmet meal you served up last night. What extraordinary caring!

And, best of all, you lovingly allowed me to have a bit of a pity party for a little while at the beginning of the evening – something I try not to indulge in: feeling like a victim. My sour mood had everything to do with the fear and discouragement I was feeling. I could indulge in being a horse’s rear end for a while because I felt safe with you, dear friends.

Your caring about me and for me in spite of myself was exactly the kick in the behind I very much needed! Now, because of your and Elizabeth’s show of affection in word and deed, I am in a better place. My altered mood, (which I think you noticed as we sat down to eat), was real and was because of you . The epiphany came upon me as I was lighting the candles for our meal. 

Perhaps our conversation last night was not the brightest we have ever shared, but something else was going on underneath it: a change of heart. I can summarize my new attitude as a list of things that I now know and expect to know in the days and months ahead. On this eve of all the new treatments and medical arrangements, I know that attitude will be everything. I sense that I am deeply and well loved. I understand that the way to is through, and I have every expectation of emerging from the forthcoming chemotherapy and the various surgeries and procedures with renewed health.

Know that our time together became a sacrament: the presence of God‘s abundant and sustaining grace was revealed to me in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:35)


Thank you, thank you, thank you!



© Edward R. Dufresne 2018

4 Thoughts on “Joy in Difficult Times

  1. So nice to know that you are human, and wonderful that you have such good friends and your loving wife.
    Joy, indeed, to feel much loved.

  2. Philip M. Howe on October 5, 2018 at 11:59 am said:

    Thank you for sharing your joy and your unswerving hope. You inspire us all.

  3. Elizabeth Elterich on October 5, 2018 at 6:36 pm said:

    One of my favorite passages during difficult times comes from Philippians 4:4-7! Reminds us that for Children of God we should always rejoyce!!! Have thought of you and Elizabeth all day. Pray that treatment #1 went well. Thoughts, prayers, joy, and blessings, elizabeth and richard

  4. Our Bible Study Group talked about Signs of the Spirit this week. The definition of joy we discussed was “Radiance that swells up from within you and anyone else who is engaged.” Truly you projected that radiance in your post, Ed. You have helped me recognize how joy can be found in difficult times! Thank you. Love and courage to you and Elizabeth.

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