Page CXVI is a project started with the idea of making hymns accessible and known again. They are some of the richest, most meaningful, and moving pieces of music ever written. That's what we do, and this is our blog.
When I first wrote, or I should say re-wrote, “Joy” I had no idea the wave it would make. I have received countless emails, questions, and comments on this one song, several with the similar theme of “she sure does not sound joyful to me!” I’ve even had people tell me that they did not finish the song but skipped it because it sounded too depressing and confused them in contrast to the rest of the Hymns-I record. If perchance you are someone that has not finished the song yet please listen through the end. It would be like starting a story and never finishing it. The first time I played Joy was the night my father passed away. He had a short and painful battle with cancer. My dad was not perfect but he did the best he could with what he had. A year before he died he was diagnosed with dementia. The day he told me he had cancer he said it was a blessing. To him, cancer was a better way to end his story than a mind with no memory of his family or his life. So as I sat at the piano, the only place that felt safe that night to me, the weight of loss hit my chest. I remembered my eyes were blurred with tears and I literally began to play the now familiar progression of Joy. I kept cycling through the progression and then, as if it had already been written, I began to sing a different melody to a song I sang in VBS as a child, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” The truth is that I was terribly and profoundly sad. The reality of grief had not even entirely hit me yet. But at the same moment I had a deep sense of peace. He was no longer in pain. He was no longer sick. He was free from all his ailments and restored. Although I still miss him, I know that God has weaved redemption through death into my father’s story. That brings me great joy. It was not until grief became a part of my story that I realized that joy is not simply an expression, but an attitude and acknowledgment of the deep peace of knowing a Savior. I believe it is important as a community that wants to comfort the weary we allow space for those who are grieving, suffering, and experiencing loss to say, “Hey! I am hurting! I am in pain!” It is okay to give them space to figure out what joy means in that time.
I now know that you can experience grief and joy simultaneously…and if not, that joy can and will come if you allow it to. I had Joy written without the ending that is on the record for a while. And after I had some time to grieve I remembered the hymn “It is Well With My Soul.” The author of that hymn lost multiple members of his immediate family when he wrote those deeply wise words. It seemed appropriate to end “Joy” with this hymn in acknowledgement that God brings us peace. He even brings us joy when it seems and feels impossible.