A surprising young man gave me a deeper understanding of joy. He was in his mid to late twenties, yet his skin reflected that of one 10 years older. His hair sprouted a short, blonde, spiked James Dean look alike. He caught my eye, as I was driving down our main city street, bustling with the morning’s activity; people hurrying off to work and school in an array of diverse vehicles, a moving rainbow of traffic. He wore a set of dark blue sagging pants, black sneakers, and a grey long sleeve sweatshirt. He wrapped his arms tightly across his chest and walked aimlessly along a side road with a look of disgust, anger, and hopelessness. It was as if he was scanning the path in front of him for some oddity to bring him hope, a gem to give him joy – but nothing.
I was behind in my schedule this morning and missed breakfast. Being short on time I decided to pull a dreaded last option only stop into McDonald’s for a sausage egg and cheese McMuffin sandwich and then scat through Starbucks to top off the “breakfast of champions.” My health fiend friend Terri would be quite disappointed; I’ve already destroyed the dreaded calorie count. I pulled out of the McD’s driveway and slowly eased my way down the same side road I came in.
There he is again. Him. He walked back and forth a 100 yards between a run down hotel and a busy gas station. I couldn’t help but follow him as my heart sunk with sadness wondering what was wrong and where he was going. I pulled into a gas station slot, peaked around the corner of a pump, and carefully spied on him as he weaved through the parked and moving vehicles. He walked around the side of the building, stopped, stared at the ground for a minute, turned around and headed back to where he came from.
I followed him back along the long side street and towards the hotel, which only a few months prior had been the scene of a murder. Is this where you are staying? Do you not have a job to go to? As I passed him, he plopped himself down on the curb, pulled his legs towards his chest with his arms, and put his head down.
I pulled a U-turn through the hotel parking lot past a man and woman smoking outside thinking this is possibly one of the worst ideas in the world.
My heart was heavy as I was moved with compassion to do something, but what? I turned my head to the right, noticing my bag of food, sitting there, an uneaten breakfast sandwich. I could feed him.
I pulled my truck out into the road and stopped in front of him. I rolled down my window and asked, “Are you okay?”
What an idiot Lisa. Of course he is not okay!
He looked at me and to his right and moaned, “Uh”, not knowing what to say.
Way to handle this one with suave Lisa.
“Are you hungry?” I was already thinking he would need to come to the window and this is chancy, but I know right now this sandwich just wasn’t meant for me this morning.
I grabbed the small red and white bag and held it out the window. He hopped up, and like a scared, starving squirrel, he walked towards the truck, reached out and in a split second, my bag of food became his bag of joy.
He half looked at me, and whispered, “Thanks,” tucked his head down, pulled a quick 180°, and walked away to the other side of the hotel. With each step he increased his stride and pace, distancing himself from the smokers hanging out and laughing in the parking lot. He scattered out of site, as if to hover in a corner, conceal, and protect his treasure from thieves who might fight him for it.
When was the last time you’ve eaten?
A white van had pulled up behind us and the driver saw the event take place. Not wanting to be a nuisance, I pulled forward and continued driving along and into the rest of my day.
I know I gave this young man a sliver of joy and a few moments of happiness as I filled a need, and stopped his pang of hunger. Any fear of danger during my unexpected detour was easily pushed aside by the thought, that in some small way, I knew my kindness would make a difference.
Living in community with others is a privilege and a responsibility. We can find great joy in making a difference in someone else’s life. Sometimes all it takes is for us to take a second, look up, and notice a need in others. Many times, we have something that has been given to us that really is meant to be given away.
What do you carry with you that might be the source of someone else’s joy?
Despite my good deed, I still felt a swelling of sadness rise up in me as I drove away. I know my Lord was pleased with me this day. The mercy I showed this young man and my simple care for him was a God ordained act (Matthew 9:13). But something was missing in this kindness. Something eternal.
Joy is something or someone that provides a source of happiness, but the source of our Joy is the distinguishing factor between temporal happiness and eternal happiness. This distinction is where the rubber meets the road.
I knew the happiness I provided him that day was only temporary. What I really hoped for was the opportunity to share with this disheartened young man an everlasting JOY that comes despite our circumstances and despite our losses and that lasts for eternity.
Like this young man I fed, the food I provided was the joy that caused his happiness. We too can experience happy moments. We are happy when:
- Someone tells a funny side splitting joke
- We see a good movie
- The cute boy in school looks our way and smiles
- Our team wins a basketball game
- Favre throws a touchdown
- Jenni Finch strikes out three hitters
- Our husband takes us on a trip to Europe
- We hear the pitter patter of our kids running down the hallway
- The stock market goes up 100 points
- Our home mortgage finance rate drops to 3.5%
- We get three job offers
But what happens when things don’t go our way and our joy is turned upside down?
- Someone calls us names and bullies us
- The movie we saw is so bad it should be banned
- The cutest boy in school is disgusted by us
- Our team loses the championship
- Favre throws an interception
- Our USA softball team loses to Japan in the Olympics
- Our husband has an affair
- Our child passes away from an illness
- The stock market crashes
- We can’t afford our house mortgage anymore
- We lose our job
Every journey has its difficulties, but is there anything or anyone that can continually feed us an everlasting happiness in spite of our circumstances or the way we may feel? Yes, there is! There is REAL JOY. The One and Only True JOY. This REAL JOY goes beyond our circumstances, beyond the primary emotions that rise up from our situations. It is this JOY that keeps us smiling, that keeps us laughing, brings us peace, and keeps us hoping.
When Paul was beaten and imprisoned for sharing his faith, he knew this JOY when he wrote to his other friends in ministry, “As grieving yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing yet possessing everything,” (II Corinthians 6:3-10).
HE is our one and only everlasting source of delight.
When we really know Him personally, we have an everlasting JOY.
JOY comes when you know and remain in JESUS.
Christ said, “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete,” (John 15:9-11).
JOY is Jesus Over You.
When Jesus is Over You, it means when you accept His free gift of salvation, you accept not only Him into your life, but all the good He covers you with.
He completes and perfects everything else that either never fulfills you or eventually falls apart. He taught me that:
- I am loved when I don’t feel it.
- I have victory in Him despite my losses.
- I receive His grace when I mess up.
- There is life with Him after this one.
- I am wealthy despite the size of my home or the thickness of my wallet.
- He gives me the wisdom I lack and the discernment I desire.
- He is the calm in my storm today and the serenity I seek for tomorrow.
Jesus’ got your back!
JESUS is my source of delight.
JESUS is my JOY.
It is JESUS that lies underneath all my emotions and circumstances and feeds me with happiness, no matter what happens to me. This kind of Joy “Light(s) Up The Sky” (The Afters). It saved me from valleys deep and oceans wide, from self-pity, self-doubt, and mistakes so great. I was healed from within, despite lingering troubles. I was spirit filled with JOY (Galatians 5:22), because I accepted Christ’s free sacrifice and love along my journey, and it’s changed me forever.
As you walk along your journey, ask yourself one question: What could I be carrying that could make a world of difference for someone else?
What are you gifted with? Maybe it’s your experience being a parent or your professional knowledge in a technical business. Even sharing your connections can open doors for other people and change their path. Maybe it’s just your kindness and smile that can bring joy on someone’s journey.
It doesn’t have to cost you much. On this day, it cost me only two dollars and eighty-two cents.
Take a moment to stop, put your own needs aside, and notice those around you. There is always someone else who may need a small sliver of hope or a helping hand along his or her winding path. To you, it may not seem like much. To another, it may be the world. It can give them hope and be the joy they find on their journey.
Christ commanded his disciple, “Feed my sheep,” (John 21:15-19). Know what those around you need. Take care of those who God places in your life, but always remember, it is the one true pure source of JOY they inevitably need to hear about and that will last them forever.
****Are YOU lacking JOY? ****
If you’ve never experienced this JOY before, here’s how you can receive it in your life?
If you know this JOY, but are struggling right now, tap into your source of JOY today!
The key to receiving an everlasting JOY is where you go to look for it. It’s not in your wallet, on the Internet, in a playmate magazine, or in another’s arms. It’s only in God’s presence. If we are in need and looking to get filled, don’t grab the remote, a fashion magazine, or a “mouse”, grab your Bible instead and get on your knees. That’s where you’ll find me. Let’s meet there together.
You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
(Psalm 16:11 HCSB)
If this reading encouraged you, please share it with others. This is the final article on a series called Our Life’s Journey, where you can also enjoy Saved from a Raging River, Embracing Difficulties to become an Expert, and I Kicked Carrie.