Surprised by Joy
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:17-18 New International Version (NIV)
Last year I reclaimed an enclosed area of our backyard as a garden space. The harvest from this pocket garden was ample enough that I decided to replant it this year, despite an early difficulty in finding the lettuce and kale seeds I sought. I ended up sowing varieties of greens that were not really what I wanted, and I wondered whether I would even appreciate the harvest.
On June 22, as we learned that a surge in coronavirus cases meant Ada County would be moving from Stage 4 back into Stage 3 of the governor’s reopening plan, I was no longer questioning my appreciation. Jeannine and I could not keep up with the abundance of fresh greens from my garden spot – and they were delicious! We were alternating, harvesting lettuce one day and kale the next. Jeannine was googling “kale recipes” more often than anything else. She even threatened to feed me greens for breakfast!
Despite everything that was going on in the world, we were having fun with our harvest from a 6-foot by 10-foot garden. On a day that could have left us feeling defeated, we instead found ourselves feeling a joy that surprised us. God’s beautiful Creation was filling not just our stomachs but also our souls.
That is just one commonplace example of the kind of joy that God has in store for us, even in the worst of times. The Bible is filled with stories of God working in unexpected ways at unexpected times – bringing big, joyful surprises to people during times that were considerably more difficult than those we face today. In the face of these unexpected gifts of joy, people were amazed and sometimes even shocked.
In those Bible stories, we can find comfort; I recommend them to you for days you may need something to lift your spirits. Among my favorites are:
Jacob dreams of a stairway to heaven and hears God’s promise to watch over him wherever he goes. (See Genesis 28:10-17.)
Jesus calms the storm that is frightening his disciples. (You’ll find it at Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 8:23-27, and Luke 8:22-25.)
Jesus walks from the lakeshore to his disciples’ boat on the water. (See Matthew 14: 22-33.)
Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds 5,000 men plus the women and children with them. (Read it at Matthew 14:13-21.)
And, of course, the story at the center of our Christian faith: Jesus is resurrected from the dead. (You’ll find it at Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-20.)
During these uncertain times, as we try to adjust to our “new normal” and figure out God’s plan for us, may you be surprised by joys and blessings that come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. May you recognize those joys and blessings, no matter how small. And may you embrace them all.
Grace and Peace and Calm and Wisdom and Hope and Joy!