There is a specific person that God created each of us to be. All of the unique components in your life are there for a reason. God created you, and he created you the way he did for a reason, to be a certain person. When we become the people we were created to be, we are free to live the lives we were created to live. There is a universal and a unique element to this life. My last post focused on the first universal characteristic, love.
The second universal element is joy. The life of the disciple is marked by an abounding joy. When I say joy, I do not mean happiness. Happiness relies on circumstances. A couple dogs, fries with a bucket of cheese and a slice of chocolate cake from Portillo’s make me happy. An unexpected bonus makes me happy. Getting a deep, belly laugh from my son or an evening alone with my wife makes me incredibly happy. But this, in the strictest sense is not joy. It is good. It is happiness, but it is not joy. Joy exists beyond circumstances.
When I was in college, I spent a semester in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We began this semester with a three-week trip into the woods, which was a cocktail of Outward Bound and boot camp. We lived in lean-tos constructed with pinecones, twine and twigs. We ate soggy cream of wheat, dehydrated stews and a dense kind of bread called hard tack. The trip was full of challenges. We literally hiked through the night on one occasion. While I love the outdoors and backpacking, I spent the majority of the trip dreaming about getting off the trail.
Yet, as I made my way back into camp on the final day of the trip, I had an unexpected urge to turn and run back into the woods. Why? Why would I spend three weeks dreaming and yearning for a return to civilization, only to find myself on the final day wishing I could stay in the woods? I realized right there that while the trip was hardly a barrel of monkeys, I had learned so much about myself and grew so deeply through the challenges that I had experienced great joy, and it was that joy that compelled me to stay in the woods
You see, happiness is concerned with the immediate, the now, but joy sees the bigger picture. Joy is what allows us to continue praising God in the midst of trials and challenges. Joy understands that through the pain comes growth. Joy understands that trials bring perseverance and wisdom. Joy understands that one day every tear will be wiped away, and all things will be made new.