I really like the statement Chan makes on page 146: "We tend to think of joy as something that ebbs and flows depending on life's circumstances. But, we just don't lose joy, as though one day we have it and the next it's gone, oh darn. Joy is something that we have to chose and then work for. Like the ability to run for an hour, it doesn't come automatically. It needs cultivation."
I love the comparison to running, because that's something I understand. The last time I went for a long run was about six months ago. I ran 12 miles and felt incredible. The next week, however, my "pregnancy sickness" hit... which meant I had to hang up my running shoes. And for the last six months, every time I go to the shoe basket, I see them... they taunt me... they mock me! After all this time, they've made their way to the bottom of the basket, but nonetheless, I see them. And every time I see them, I start to feel sick to my stomach. The reason is because I know how difficult it's going to be to get back to running 12 miles AND feel incredible. To be completely honest, it's going to be difficult to get up to three miles and feel incredible. Anyone that's been in a similar situation... whether it's due to pregnancy, injury or lack of time (or discipline!)... understands the frustration. But all of that doesn't matter, because in the end, the only answers, the only thing that works, it to lace up those annoying shoes and place one foot in front of the other. There's no shortcut, no magic cure-all. There's just your persistence, your discipline and your perseverance... your dedication. Understanding this helps me better understand Chan's characteristic for The Dedicated:
"A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4)." p. 146.
Yet, what I love most is Chan's explanation of when true joy is formed: "The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of the difficult seasons of life." This is counter-intuitive to everything our culture throws at us: joy comes when we look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way, do a certain thing... joy comes through indulgence, spending exorbitant amounts of money, and thinking of oneself first. Right? Well, those things MIGHT buy you temporary "happiness"... or, at least a pleasant distraction... but, in my experience, they NEVER buy you joy. What I've come to learn these past few months is that through this difficult season, God has revealed those things that truly matter: my husband, my children, my church, my service to all three, but mostly my love and service to Him. The irony is that the storms of my current situation have not calmed. There is as much uncertainty now, as there was six months ago... but despite the storms, there is peace and an inexplicable joy that (quite honestly) doesn't make sense to those that don't believe in Christ... because it is counter-intuitive to this worldly, self-indulgent culture.
I'm constantly asked, with baited breathe: How are you doing? Do you know what the next step is on the "job front"? How are you going to manage four kids and homeschooling? For most, the thought of my life circumstances is a little overwhelming... and at times it can be. But, I have complete confidence that God has me where He wants me... something that I couldn't say with certainty a year ago (even though a year ago my life LOOKED a lot more joyful!) The only explanation I can give for this is simple: Six months ago, I started seeking Him more. I became diligent in my pursuit of Him. And while I haven't found the answers to my "most pressing questions," I have found joy... just in knowing that God is there. He is in control. He has revealed Himself in countless ways... and with that brings and inexplicable peace that cannot be manufactured and bought. It can ONLY be given as a gift from the Creator.
Where does your joy come from...honestly? Where do you seek it? Who do you look to for it? Take an honest assessment. What are you putting before God?