I've filled 5+ journals; read 6 different books; contemplated more hours than I kept track of; written more words than I ever thought possible; and here I am this morning, writing a conclusion. The journey began on December 27th, after a significant period of time looking back on a year, and asking the Lord for direction in a new one. The word "JOY" kept resonating with my spirit. Some of it started when I was reading Galatians and hit chapter 4 and stumbled across these words of the Apostle Paul in the letter he was writing:
What has happened to all your joy (v. 15)?
That was a valid question. I had to admit, over the years, I've been prone to lose joy in the midst of hard. Were the Apostle Paul walking life's journey with me, he might have been on target in asking me that question. Thus began the journey. I had no road map - just hundreds of Bible references, titles of books, and a journal with empty pages. I've never spent so much time on one word! I've loved sitting down each morning with such specific direction, and hearing God's whispers filling in a lot of blanks, dispelling several myths, cleaning up my definition, and giving me direction. At the beginning, I thought that life was the journey and the destination was JOY. I've discovered that while LIFE is the journey, JOY isn't the destination, it is to be found IN the journey. JOY is mine to claim at any time, no matter the circumstances; primarily because it is found IN HIS PRESENCE (Psalm 16:11). I, like Moses, cry to the Lord, I do not wish to go anywhere without God's PRESENCE!
So, the end of the matter is really the beginning. It is where I started; so, it is a fitting conclusion - the story of God, Moses, and the Israelite people. If you want this whole story read Exodus 33. The Lord says to Moses in so many words: Go on ahead to the land I have promised you and the people (the land I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would possess). I'll send an angel before you, and drive out all the "ite"-nations. However, I will not go with you, for you are an obstinate people, and if I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Moses pled with the Lord in the tent of meeting:
There it is, again, the main answer to the "why" of JOY. Here is why it mattered to Paul for the Galatians to lose their joy. Why it matters if I lose mine. Joy is a byproduct of His presence. If I am not regularly in God's presence on this journey, there is no joy. If I am not in God's presence, there is no distinguishing me, as a follower of Christ, from any non-believer. There is nothing attractive about me. For now I know this: I NEVER wish to take a step unless God is with me, for my heart's desire is to be a distinguishing follower.
I'm still reading verses; I'm still reading more books on joy - I'm certainly not finished with the study, but I'm only adding snippets to the main lessons I've learned, at this point. So, what next? Well, that will be as much a surprise to me, as it will be to you, as a reader, if you choose to keep joining me...