Saturday, February 29, 2020

How to Find Joy in the Journey

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? A word you want to feel, to show, to experience?

“Joy” is my word for 2020. I even found a “JOY” plaque to hang by my computer.

At this age and stage, “joy” is not always easy to come by. Where is the joy when, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “the strong men stoop,” “windows grow dim,” and “the sound of grinding fades”? In other words, our shoulders droop, we lose our eyesight, our hearing and so much more. Where is the joy in that? But the better question is, where is God in that?

In my season as a young mother, joy came from watching first steps, hearing first words, cheering Ted and Terry on at milestones—games, birthdays, confirmations. Frustrated by the challenges of child rearing, I sometimes read Psalms and at times even cried as I prayed with the psalmist. But the time spent praying and reading God’s Word brought me into God’s Presence, quieted my spirit and strengthened me to wipe runny noses and settle sibling squabbles. In God’s Presence, I found joy.

More tears came during years of grief that followed the death of our infant daughter. What happened? Why? I memorized Psalm 42. The psalmist wrote of feeling “downcast,” yet he would “hope in God.” The psalmist wrote of feeling settled one minute and broken the next. That’s grief. While I didn’t feel “joyous,” I felt peace as I determined better to know the God of the psalmist.

In my season of working as a director of Christian education, I found joy in serving God in His house. The psalmist wrote: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord (Psalm 84:1-2). The joy of serving God’s people, leading, organizing, encouraging. What a privilege.

That was followed by a season of searching. I had prepared myself for Christian ministry. What could I now do since I was no longer employed? I pasted a verse to the front of my computer and enrolled in journalism courses. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). That verse fostered joy in my heart.

As my family grew there was the joy of watching sons find spouses and establish homes. Then of welcoming grandchildren into the family, hosting sleepovers. That joy was sometimes tamped down with illnesses and conflicting schedules that kept us too busy to connect, but those have been fun years that continue—with joy.

As I searched for direction, I discovered the joy of writing and then of publishing a book, which led to the joy of speaking with Kim and Janine as Friends of the Heart. That too poses challenges as we match schedules with invitations and travel to events. But there’s great joy in watching women deepen relationships with God.

Now Bill and I experience the senior years. Some tasks that used to be so easy require all the energy we can muster. Joy now comes from watching cardinals flitting around the birdfeeder, deer running through the woods. From eating crab cakes at The Wooden Nickel. Then there is the deep peace and joy that comes from journeying together through 58 years of marriage, through watching my family grow and most of all through seeing the faithfulness of God at every single turn of events.

Where is God in all this? God is right where he is at every season of life. And He alone is the source of our joy. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). I memorized that verse along with children I taught in Good News Club many years ago. And it’s true. We may not always be happy, but we can always, always, find joy in Christ.

Of course there are discouraging days as we wrestle with everything from colds to cancer. But then I remember my word for the year—joy—and, as I read God’s word and pray, I find joy and strength for the day. Joy depends on your view of God, not on your circumstances.

Where are you on your journey? Are you finding joy? If not, are you looking for it at the right places and on the right pages? Read God’s Word. Pray. And look for bright spots in your day that spark joy. Shift your mind from the problem to the Problem Solver and press on. The ultimate joy for all of us lies ahead in heaven. In. His. Presence.  #findingjoy #inhispresence

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