I had been scouring the internet all day, every day, for weeks on end. And I had looked at least weekly for the past year or two. Had sent photos in texts and emails, requested more information, made phone calls more than a few times.
Nothing that was the right fit.
Until it was.
And without my efforts. And not in my timing. Just as it should have been all along.
JOY showed up.
And yes, for us in this moment, we have it in a tangible, wriggly puppy kind of way. A puppy our daughters named Joy, without any input from us. The way it needed to be.
For us, JOY came after several years of sadness at watching our beloved dog struggle through tests and medicines and diagnoses, fighting one body system attack after another. For us, JOY showed up after years and decades of frustration and heartache about other (human) relationships we have lost and that are shattered irreparably, at least irreparable by our hands. For us, JOY entered our lives after we had been happy in ebbs and flows, but we had been missing the whole point.
For us, JOY arrived in a way we never could have imagined, as much as we had craved it and hunted it.
JOY came in the incredibly hands-on way we needed right now and have hoped for for a long time.
A reminder of Him, loving unconditionally.
A reminder of Him, listening always.
A reminder of Him, caring differently.
A reminder of Him, showing up incessantly.
Personally, I needed a million-times-a-day reminder to find JOY at all times, in all places, through all things. Calling it out repeatedly, even if it’s just to a bouncy baby-shark of a puppy, has been unbelievably helpful. I should have been doing it for the lifetime I’ve lived before our fur baby.
Proclaiming JOY so that I can find it more easily, especially when it’s most needed. So that in my feeble flip-flopping between remembering His ever-present existence, truly knowing it to the depths of my being, and crying out in confusion and frustration over my faithlessness in my journey with God, there will be no instability or insecurity. The transience and the unsure anxiety will dwindle away.
Because sometimes we need to actually verbalize things to God and with God and for God.
Maybe it adds validity to the request or the praise.
Maybe it holds us more accountable for our words and thoughts and deeds.
Maybe it just offers us the opportunity to really hear what we are asking of God and thinking about Him.
That’s what rejoicing is. Finding JOY.
Celebrating His innumerable blessings, granted through His grace and love, because they truly are countless. Not because something or someone has required God to bless us, but because He wants to, because He chooses to be the Creator of Heaven and Earth and Universe, as well as the lover of our souls, the inhabitant of our hearts, the giver of blessings. Even in the most difficult of times. Yes, there is His goodness and His love to be found even then.
Exalting His compassion, because God truly is using every situation to draw nearer to us. To us, not to pull us to Him unwillingly. But to draw nearer to us, so that we may lean in and lean on Him even more. Not really even because He needs us since He could create anyone or anything He so chooses, but because He wants us to be in communion, in companionship, with Him. He wants us to understand that, like a Father who disciplines a child, He may set boundaries for us in love, but He is also merciful and compassionate in forgiveness.
Delighting in His eternal redemption of even the most broken of people and relationships and heartaches, because saving us from ourselves and calling us His beloved children in all things, at all times has always been His plan. God didn’t send His only Son to Earth just for fun. He sent Jesus Christ here with an absolute purpose. To be God in human form so that we may know that God understands us and our hurts and our brokenness. To suffer and die a million times and more, each time we deny the utmost importance of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice. His death to take our place and to save all of us from ourselves and all of our sins. His holiest-of-holy value swapped for our battered and bruised and broken ones. But why? So that we may know that God can redeem all people, in all things, at all times just because He wants to. Simply because He wants us to remain in Him and with Him always, for eternity.
Glorifying His power and majesty over every other force of strength in this world, not because He couldn’t rule in terror or fear, with violence or intimidation, in hatred and cruelty. But because He doesn’t. Because God has chosen to reign in love, even when He is most disappointed and pained by the choices His children make when they stray so very far away and make choices to intentionally harm or brutalize more of His beloved children. Because God has decided to show restraint in personally dealing with those who make such horrendous decisions (because He certainly could handle it on His own), but to instead enable and equip His people to do so. He wants us to take up those crosses of injustice and brutality and fear, and to meet them head on as He would and could. So that we may not necessarily cause harm to others, but that we may glorify His name in exercising even greater forces of love and compassion and mercy and grace and hope and redemption toward others, all others.
Reveling in His attention to every detail of our lives, because He knows every grain of sand and every hair on every head and every iota of every created entity to ever inhabit the Earth. God doesn’t know us in our deep and secretive places because He wants to control or manipulate us in the ways that others might, but because He wants us to personally know and understand the depths of His intimate love that reaches even the most hidden parts of our souls and our hearts and our minds. God didn’t hand-form the most magnificent universe and mold every single cell of every single living being because He wanted to direct every single millisecond or the itty bitty minutia of our days, although He certainly could, but because He wants us to delight in His inexplicably unique creativity to craft things we will never comprehend, regardless of the amount of money, time, and research that goes into us attempting to understand God and the depths of His creation.
And here’s the thing. All He asks of us is for us to trust Him. To lean on Him. To remain in Him and with Him. To love Him. To rejoice in Him.
In John 15:1-11, Jesus states it all so clearly. JOY is found when we remain in Him, when we remain in His love.
And not just any JOY. Complete JOY.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete“ (John 15:1-11).
It all goes hand in hand.
Remaining in God, drinking in His Word, looking for His goodness, appreciating His blessings, leaning into His arms, glorifying His name, uniting in His love.
From all of these things, that intimate communion with Jesus Christ, that vulnerable companionship with the Father, that cherished connection with the Holy Spirit, comes JOY.
Finding JOY is finding God in all things, at all times, always. It is worth every bit of the effort.
And then comes the next part…
Stay tuned for an unexpected gift: living joy.
Missed part 1? Find it here – an unexpected gift: searching for joy