There is a small sampler hanging in the entryway of my home. Few people notice it (probably because it is surrounded by pictures of family) but I quite enjoy its depiction of a colonial home with a tree along with a beehive with bees framed by flowers and greenery typical of a colonial sampler. Yet, as lovely as it is to look at, for me, the best part is the message it proclaims: “Blessed is the life that finds joy in the journey.”
JOY. The Bible mentions joy frequently, but in ways that a world focused on itself cannot understand:
“Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . .”
“Do not be grieved,
for the JOY of the LORD is your strength.”
“But REJOICE . . .
as you participate in the sufferings of Christ,
SO THAT YOU MAY BE OVERJOYED
when His glory is revealed.”*
I Peter 4:13
Holding onto joy in the journey can often elude us in our ever-changing, increasingly upside-down world. For more than twenty years I have been privileged to come alongside people fighting personal battles large and small in the Counseling Room. As we have looked to the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective, God has faithfully spoken to each hurting, hungry soul. Repeatedly, I have witnessed God’s faithfulness in shepherding the hearts of those faithful to do their Journey Notes—as the assurance of His Presence and Purpose being worked our in their lives, provide a quiet JOY that settles in their hearts.
So, how can we receive JOY when life hits hard?
By giving thanks to God IN the hard places.
An even better question to ponder is:
How can we retain JOY throughout our journey?
By give thanks to God FOR the hard places.
I met a young woman recently who, though shattered by infidelity in her marriage, told me about how God had softened her once angry and bitter heart. She confessed her own failures as she expressed her determination to be reconciled with her husband. She admitted that she almost canceled our appointment except for one remaining question: “Is there anything else I can do to encourage my husband to want to re-build our marriage?”
I responded with a question that burned brightly in my mind as soon as I heard her question, “Have you given thanks to God for your husband’s life and for your marriage?” I went on to explain, “You have testified to me about how God has brought about change and spiritual growth in your mind and heart. GIVE THANKS, for the blessing of God’s divine purposes being worked out in your heart and life–a maturing, humble faith.” She nodded with a thoughtful smile as the wisdom of what was said settled in.
What lesson can we learn from this? While the world touts “happiness”, God calls us to go deeper as we choose JOY as a reflection of our trust in Him.
The Apostle Paul wrote to encourage his friends about the basis of his JOY from a prison cell:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him (Christ) who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:12, 13
If you are looking for a formula for Joy/contentment in your circumstances, this acronym for JOY will serve you well: put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself, last.
True Christ-centered JOY, chooses to trust more in His love for us,
as we give thanks that we are never alone.**
Christ-centered JOY remembers the all-surpassing love of the One who came expressly to save us from ourselves . . . for Himself:
He died for us so that,
whether we are awake or asleep,
we may live together with Him.
Therefore encourage one another. . .
build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing . . . .
Rejoice always, pray continually,
GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES*;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:10, 11, 16-18
ALL to His Glory!
*Large capitalized letters, emphasis mine.