Joy in the Journey

I heard her coming before I saw her.  In her summer dress and flip-flops she approached the counter with a smile, $2.00 in one hand and a small package of licorice in the other.  She may have been ten and she was happy; someone had said “yes” to her petition.

When the purchase was complete, I asked if she wanted her candy in a bag. “No,” she thanked me.  “Going to eat them now, huh?” She giggled, flashed a confirming smile and skipped off with her treat.  Her hair bounced and her flip-flops kept rhythm with her strides as she returned to the one who had granted her request.  Her delight was contagious and, for just a moment, I re-lived the feeling of childhood joy when the days were simpler, demands lighter and troubles buffered by the love, provision and protection of home.

If you experienced that kind of childhood, you understand.  If you didn’t, you may have imagined it from the longings of your heart. Whatever our backgrounds or wherever we find ourselves today, the question is the same; how do we find joy in the journey?  Joy when the skip is gone from your step.  Joy when the requests have been denied.  Joy when your heart is broken, your soul is weary and no relief is in sight.

Life is harder than we thought it would be.  What starts with happy expectations meets with unexpected turns.  No one is exempt.  Despite our best efforts, dreams and realities don’t always connect.  People disappoint us and we disappoint ourselves.

~  A misunderstanding separates friends
~  love is betrayed
~  words shatter
~  a child rebels
~  finances fail
~  the job is eliminated
~  an addiction is discovered
~  diseases threatens
~  age confronts

Though we identify these things as joy stealers, a deeper issue lies behind them.  What affects us most is the fact that life’s experiences seem to counter God’s promises and we begin to believe what we see rather than trust Who we know.

Jesus said “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”  (John 15:7)  So we ask.  We come earnestly; praying, trusting, waiting and … it doesn’t happen.  The requests are not frivolous.  We don’t come seeking the things of this world.  We pray for the hurting, the lost, the suffering and for relief from the heavy burdens that have become constant companions.  Yet our earthly prayers seem to meet with heavenly silence.  Or do they?

We live in a fast food, internet, ATM world. Immediate results have become part of our mindset and, too often, we send our prayers out in the same way, anticipating a quick response rather than entrusting our circumstances to the Sovereign Lord.  As God’s people, we are called to live by faith, not sight.  He never promised to reveal what His hand sets in motion from our prayers, nor is He obligated to unfold blueprints of His plans or dates of accomplishment. We come with our requests as His children and, as such, are called to honor Him whatever the response.

In truth, our joy will be determined by our ability to trust the wisdom and love of God; to give to Him what is not ours to control, to cling to His goodness and faithfulness when we cannot make sense of the direction life is taking.

Had the request of my young friend in the store been denied, she would have been no less loved.  And there will surely be times when the answers to our requests will be denied or detained for an underlying reason of a greater good we cannot see.  In those times, we must remember that God has already said “Yes!” to our greatest need.  He has given us a Savior. Because of that gift, one day we will know a boundless joy that will make our steps light and our spirits soar, for the burdensome mysteries of this world will be laid down and we will be safe in the love, provision and protection of our Heavenly Home.

The sound of flip-flops took on meaning from that long-ago encounter.  The little girl is a woman now and I am further along in the journey Home.  Of course, trials have accompanied both of us and answers to prayers may be yet to come, which is all the more reason I’m attuned to the cadence of sandals. It is a wonderful reminder that the real joy in the journey is walking with Jesus.

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