November 13, 2014 | Anonymously submitted
Most of my adult life has been spent chasing after joy. I wish I could tell you that means my days are spent at the Father’s feet, fully submitted to Him and experiencing the joy that comes from a life dependent on Him.
Sadly, no. My life has been spent learning the life lessons that we are presented with, where we are given two choices:
Door # 1) Choose joy despite the life circumstances I am faced with, finding my joy in Him and faithfully following where He is leading…
Door #2) Grumble and complain and cry out to God about how unfair He is being to His child…
Want to guess which door I choose more often than not? While I’m sure the suspense is killing you, I will go ahead and confess that I struggle with finding joy. I will be the first to grumble when my toddler interrupts my sleep (unfortunately, I’m not the mama that jumps out of bed eager for a snuggle at 1AM), the first to grumble when I’m cleaning up a mess, the first to whine at “bad news”, the first to complain when I am inconvenienced, and the least likely to offer to make everyone lemonade when I am handed a sackful of life-lemons.
Yes, Door #2 is the door I turn the knob and walk through time-after-time. I don’t write this to make light, but to point out that while life is tough, one lesson I’ve learned is that my response toward God when circumstances take an unexpected turn is so indicative of what is going on in my heart, what I am clinging to in life, and where God ranks.
A few years ago, my husband lost his job at a local architecture firm. During that time, our then two-year-old daughter became very ill and was hospitalized. Over the following months, I wrestled over and over with God, questioning His goodness, His will, and His provision. More than anything, I wrestled with joy. How could I be joyful when our world was turned upside-down? How could I be joyful, when I couldn’t count on a specific amount of money rolling into our bank account? How could I be joyful when my daughter’s health was at risk during such an uncertain stage of life? How could I find joy when something was taken away?
Over the course of nine-months of unemployment, God continually showed His faithfulness despite my wandering heart. Slowly, He showed me how he had placed our family on the hearts of friends who sacrificially gave, some anonymously and some face-to-face. It was humbling and it was the picture of a God who shows great mercy. He showed how our days were filled with the giggles of two young children, playing and relishing the fact that mommy and daddy were home, oblivious as to the reason why. Those days became known as “family day every day” and it is how we continue to refer to our time at home all together on the weekends. He showed me the value in supporting my husband and encouraging him, even though my insides were shaky. But, He was most faithful in helping me discover joy. Joy in all circumstances. It’s not to say that unemployment was without it’s challenges, but we had joy. We walked in complete dependence on God, not just for our physical needs, but our spiritual fulfillment as well. In return, He filled our hearts with complete joy. It was the greatest lesson in joy I have ever learned. We often reflect on that time fondly. It seems weird, I know, but that’s what makes joy different.
Joy is a heart that is centered on God, who is the source of all joy. John Piper said it best:
He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, His commitment to uphold and display His glory is not in vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. If He revealed Himself to the proud and self-sufficient and not to the humble and dependent, He would belittle the very glory whose worth is the foundation of our joy.
It’s so true. I had greater joy when our life was stripped down to the point where we couldn’t count on ourselves anymore. We used to be so self-sufficient, and didn’t really need Him much. We ordered our lives how we wanted it, without thinking if we were obedient to where Jesus was leading us. We were “happy” because things were going our way, but not “joyful” because of our complete enjoyment in Jesus. It took stripping so much for me to grasp how I had ordered my life and Jesus didn’t fit.
There are times when my heart wants to wander back to self-sufficiency. When that happens, it’s His voice that I hear calling me back.
” Walk with me. Abide in me. Don’t lean on your own understanding, lean into me. Find your joy in me.”
Each of us are faced with life’s challenges. Maybe you are in a difficult season of parenting, or your heart is desperately yearning to be a parent. Maybe you are facing illness, financial struggles, or job loss. Maybe you have relationships that need healing or are in a season of trials that has lasted longer than you think you can endure. There is joy to be found not in circumstances going our way, but in the presence of the Lord.
Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Yes, I still chase after joy. I still have to be reminded that my joy cannot be found in anything other than Jesus. While it will be a lesson I am presented with over and over again, in His mercy, He reminds me that no matter my circumstances, He is the source of joy.