I recently read this quote by Rachel Marie Martin: Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living. The same sentiment is shared in the Bible:
People can make all kinds of plans, but only the Lord’s plan will happen…The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Proverbs 19:21 & 23, NCV)
Let go…find joy: embracing this change of perspective is far more life!
When life is not going as we would like, we can have joy because the Lord’s plan for us is still in place. When our hope is in Him, nothing can steal our joy. Jesus suffered more than we ever will, yet He held on to that truth:
He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. (Hebrews 12:2, GW)
I cannot imagine experiencing joy in the midst of the suffering Jesus endured. But He focused on the outcome, a relationship with us. Far more life accepts the pain and suffering of this life by tapping into limitless joy through faith in Christ. God promises that one day our suffering will end, but our joy will continue for eternity:
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. (Psalm 16:11 & Acts 2:28, NIV)
Even when we face injustice, God offers us joy:
The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:9-11, NIV)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7, NIV)
God’s plans and purposes prevail over every sin committed against us. He helps us through every difficulty and strengthens us to stay on His path. Far more life finds joy by pursuing God’s purposes. Because we do not always understand His purposes, we are tempted to doubt them. Many Christians find encouragement in this promise of God’s protection and provision:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
This promise to the Israelites was followed by 70 years of captivity! They did not experience the prosperous life they envisioned right away. But, as they waited, God’s joy was always available in the story they were living.
Mary’s life did not unfold like she had pictured. Her future marriage was threatened by an unexpected pregnancy. Many of her friends and family probably did not believe the child she carried was miraculously conceived. But Mary let go of the life she had pictured and found joy in the story God asked her to live, proclaiming:
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49, NIV)
Our natural tendency is to avoid or eliminate anything negative: pain; hard circumstances; broken dreams; and dashed hopes. We would happily rescue ourselves and our loved ones from unwanted life situations.
But if Mary had been rescued, Jesus would not have come to earth to pay for our sins.
If the patriarch Joseph had been rescued from slavery, millions of people would have faced starvation (Genesis 37-47).
If David had been rescued from Saul’s pursuit, we would not have many of the Psalms that remind us to rely on God (I Samuel 16 – 2 Samuel 1).
Hebrews 11 contains many more accounts of people whose lives did not go as planned. But as they followed God’s storyline and purpose, they found greater joy than they had imagined possible!
My life has not gone as I expected. I have not worked in the field I dreamed about. I did not get married or have children when I thought I would. I have experienced loss and disappointment that I would not have chosen. The future will not be what I envision, either. But with each departure from my plan, I have a choice: will I let my heart keep longing for my story or will I joyfully pursue the story God has for me? Sometimes the choice is hard, but I know far more life is only found pursuing God’s story.
Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God! (Matthew 5:8, GNT)
God has been faithful to me. He has shown me over and over that His way is best, His Word is trustworthy, His character is unchanging, and His love is unconditional. As I live the story He planned for me, I find joy in His friendship, peace in His presence, and hope in His promises. I find far more life as I live out each day of His story. You can find joy and far more life by living out His story for you!
Are there things you expected in life that have not come to be? Have you let go of them? If not, what do you fear will happen if you do?
How have you found joy in the unexpected aspects of your life?
If you are not experiencing joy, what are you feeling? What do you believe about yourself or God that supports that feeling? Is that belief consistent with what God’s Word says? If not, pray and ask Him to help you recognize His truth and embrace it rather than the false belief that is hurting you.
What aspect of God’s character helps you trust Him and His story for your life?
Throw yourself wholeheartedly into pursuing God’s story — and enjoy far more life!
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso