Written by Laura Bernero
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.
Psalm 19:7-10, The Message
Can you think of a specific time in your life when you felt pure, unhindered joy?
One of those moments for me was when I was flying across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, on my way to study abroad in Ireland. I was surrounded by several close friends and filled with plans and hopes for our trip. Excitement and anticipation filled me as I peered down at the waves from 10,000 feet up, contemplating what lay on the other side of those waters.
Memories of traveling are particularly strong and joyful for me. Maybe that is why Psalm 19 – particularly this translation in The Message – resonates with my heart. Travel is one of God’s favorite metaphors here! Journey with me, he says, and you will travel with confidence. Follow my lead, and I will direct your paths. And – best of all – if you navigate your life with my maps, I will show you the way to joy.
He will show us the way to joy. What a beautiful promise!
At certain points in my life, I have read that phrase and thought, ‘I’m doing great! I don’t really need to be shown the way to joy. I have it already!’ Happiness. Excitement. Giddiness. Laughter. Emotion. Carefree abandon.
But then, when I experience failure and grief in my journey through life, I cling to those words in a whole new way. ‘Please show me, Lord,’ I plead. ‘I am lost. Help me to see your signposts. Show me the way to joy.’
What is beautiful and important to remember is that the concept of joy – and the use of the word joy in the Bible– has many different dimensions and meanings. Joy is present in both good times and bad.
David rejoices in his sufferings in the Psalms. He declares that God is close to those who rejoice and just as close to those who mourn (Psalm 34:18). Hannah, the mother of King Solomon, rejoices both when God grants her a son, and when she breaks her own heart to give her son away for God’s service (1 Samuel 1-2). The book of Hosea tells of a young man’s promise to be faithful and joyful in the midst of great betrayal. Paul lifts all the good and bad of his life up to the Lord (Philippians 3) and declares the truth that God works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
Joy in the Lord means more than temporary happiness and excitement, although those emotions are wonderful and are gifts from God. Having joy means having an eternal perspective. Clinging to your hope in Jesus, even when things in this world are messy and hurtful. Knowing that he is real and that he is bigger than your pain. Resting in peace because he promises life eternal. And looking for his signposts.
Remember, his signs may come in the most unlikely places. His most vibrant and important signpost of all time came in the form of a humble baby, born in the muck of a manger. And the most important story that He ever authored lead a young mother on a long, dangerous journey to a small town far from family and comfort. It is from the unlikely journey and past the most unlikely signpost that God gives birth to our greatest joy.
As I pursue joy in this lifetime, I need God’s map. I need to look for his signs, follow his lead, and remember to delight in the journey that he has me on. If I am going to endure the traffic of this world with patience and travel the mountains and valleys of daily life with courage, I need his atlas.
Will you pray with me today?
Lord, help us to follow your map. Help us to see signs of your blessing and direction in our lives today. And, as Christmas approaches, help us to lift up thanksgiving and joy in the midst of our preparations. Lord, show us the way to joy. In the name of our coming savior, Jesus, amen.