Where Are You In This Story? Our Continuing Study of Joy

Here we are again talking about joy. The first week we defined joy and the next week we found Jesus in a joyous occasion. This week we will look at a story that goes a little deeper understanding joy. We have learned (or at least I hope we have) that joy does not come from the world or circumstances but comes from the heart given to us by the Holy Spirit.
So here we go. I wanted to find a story that for me defined joy in the purest form. I thought about Mary and how she must have felt joy knowing she was having the Christ child. I thought about Moses as he led his people from Egypt and those fleeing from slavery. I thought about all those men and women Jesus healed from the many diseases and sicknesses and how joyful they were to be well and healed. So, I prayed for God to lead me to one story that for me helped me define joy. It wasn’t long before he led me to my story. I challenge you to find a story that defines joy for you.
The story comes from Luke 15. You know the story well. It is the story of the son who leaves home with his inheritance. That had to be one of the lowest points of the father’s life; to see his son armed with all of his belongings walking away not knowing if he’d ever be seen again. That was not a joyous occasion by any stretch of the imagination. We get excited when our kids leave home to go to college, or start a new job or to get married, but this is not one of those times. We jump ahead in the story to the verses God shared with me today in my thoughts, “…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24) This doesn’t say so, but I am a parent and I know if one of my children had taken off for who knows where and for who knows how long I would be full of joy when I saw him returning. I would be leaping for joy and crying and excited and full of joy.
As for the young man I am sure he experienced joy as well. He was going home thinking he was going to be chided for what he had done, but instead he gets a celebration. I am thinking that he is pretty joyful as well. His heart had to be full of joy.
So, as normal I thought this was pretty simple, cut and dried. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this is a happy ever after story. But as usual God reminded me of a few things. It goes deeper.
Several years ago, I was not unlike the young man. Oh, I didn’t ask my parents for my inheritance and run off to some foreign lands spending all the money and then found myself broken. But, I was a child who decided to test the worldly waters by not being a faithful servant and by doing my own thing for a few years and God was the one watching his child walk away. I am sure he wondered if he’d ever see me again. Just like the prodigal son’s father he didn’t beg me to stay; he let me go. I am sure his heart was not feeling much joy as I turned away from him.
After realizing the world could not offer me what God could offer me, after being like the prodigal son, beaten up, tired and worn out I returned home to my heavenly Father. Much like the prodigal son I was ready for something other than a celebration. What I was expecting I did not get. What I got in return was not what I was expecting. God was waiting for me just like the prodigal son’s father with his arms wide open and full of joy seeing me return.
I would expect most of us at some point had a time when we rebelled or left God for something we thought was going to satisfy our needs. Little did we realize we already had it. Just like the woman who lost the coin, or the shepherd who lost his sheep and they called their neighbors and wanted to share their joy with them so does God when we return to him.
When we make our way back to God two things happen. The first thing is we bring joy to God’s heart and all of heaven. Just like the father called everyone in for a huge celebration I would imagine God calls everyone together for a joyful celebration of a life saved. “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:7

The second thing that happens is what we experience when we return to God. Instead of receiving what we deserve we receive joy; a celebration. God wraps his arms around us and showers us with love and we soon forget the fear we had returning to God. All we can feel is joy in the purest form. It’s a joy that can’t be explained.
Where are you today? Are you walking away? Are you away from God and fear returning to him? Afraid of what he might do to you when you go back? Or are you the son returning to the Father and experiencing the joy of a celebration in your honor?
God showers us with a joy that cant’ be explained. Even in our darkest days or our darkest moments in life when we are one with God we have joy that comes from within.
May God shower you with his love and his joy.
Dear Lord, thank you for my joy. I know where my joy comes from. I searched the world over for true joy and only found it when I came back to you. I hope my life brings you joy all the days of my life. Thank you for all you do for me. Thank you for your joy in me. Amen

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