The woman beside me was a cancer survivor, too. We were diagnosed within weeks of each other. Her treatment plan was a lot more intense, but here she was, looking beautiful, with soft wisps of ebony hair shining beneath a diamond studded headband.

We were at a fancy ball, celebrating our journeys.

After asking about her diagnosis, I asked if she had noticed her life being filled with joy at the same time she was experiencing such pain. “Oh no!” she quickly responded. “It was terrible. I lost my job just before the diagnosis, then I lost my car. My family completely abandoned me.”

My heart broke for the woman, and for every other person who goes through terrible trials. All this time I had been professing the incredible gift of joy God gives us when we are at our lowest points.

Listening to that woman, I thought, What if it’s not true? What if I made it up?

As I continued listening to my new friend, her eyes began to sparkle. She went on to tell me that she’s not bitter about her family; she’s proud of the strength she had in adversity. She told me about a wonderful agency that provided taxi vouchers so she could get to her chemo appointments. And how they had a garden and she learned to cook the most delicious vegetables, even when she could barely keep anything down. And how the free massage therapist was so gentle and the power of human touch was so healing.

This wasn’t a woman who had lost her job, her car and her family. This was a woman who had walked through a fire and had come out refined. Glittery. Strong. I think she was just beginning to see the extent of her own power.

It’s possible that joy in the midst of pain is all in my head. Maybe I see the silver lining because I am naive and need to believe in something good. I could be inventing kindness and joy where it doesn’t exist. That could be true.

But can I tell you a secret?

It’s way better on this side. I’ve lived both ways: believing that life was a grey, pointless experience meant to be endured and believing that each day holds tiny miracles meant to remind me that I am loved and that the One who created me has big plans for my life.

Could it be that the joy in the midst of our pain is a matter of perspective? Maybe it’s there for all of us, but we have to reach out and grab it. Let’s choose today to focus on the good even when the scales tip way over to the bad. Maybe that’s the key to unleashing all the joy that is in store for you and me, even in the middle of our pain.