Foot sore from the rough, stoney path, catching our breath in the shade, we pondered turning back. Perhaps counting the cost of hiking this primitive trail in the lower Gamilla range of the Pindus mountains in Greece too easily escaped us. Rising out of the Vikos Gorge; the deepest gorge in the world at a depth of over 1000 meters, the mountains promised stunning views. But at the halfway point to the first summit, focusing on the goal proved challenging. Much like this month’s Joy Journey; trusting when joy seems hidden.
Refocusing on the reward at the summit, refreshed with cold mountain spring water, we pressed forward in new strength. Not far from the summit, leaving behind the muggy warmth of the late May weather, tramping through the remnants of winter snow, adversity behind us, we enjoyed the wild horses, the view and some hot soup! All unexpected rewards of perseverance through the hard places.
Aimless; the best descriptor for my Joy Journey this month, still feels inadequate. Lost, wandering, stumbling; all culminating in a weariness similar to that felt on the mountain hike in Greece. Repenting I ever started the journey, turning back whispered empty relief.
Alas, much like the day on the hike, coming this far with so much promise ahead vanquished all thoughts of surrender. Choosing instead, the refreshment of the milestones so far. Relishing the treasures of past Joy discoveries pushed me to trusting when joy seems hidden.
when joy seems hidden
Swirling darkness; heavy as an unwanted cloak in summer
obscuring my path, mocking my vision.
Joy. Seeking, Choosing; Illusive.
Shrouded in darkness, hidden.
Darkness holds no power now; His Presence all my fear scatters
Guiding my way, belighting my vision.
Joy. Steady, Secure; Possessed.
His Presence as the North Star.
When everything swirled around me, when circumstances shifted, He was always Present. I only needed to look to the “North Star” to find my way home to joy. For as the North Star remains steady, so His Presence never shifts, nor the joy nestled there.
Stumbling in the hard places; weak, numb, grim, worn beyond my years
Questioning God’s goodness; His purpose?
Joy. Pursuing, Yearning; Hidden.
Calling out, unseen, unknown.
Weariness finds true rest in Him; breath, life, soul refreshment
Purpose from the fountain of His goodness.
Joy. Seen, Loved; Everlasting.
Trusting His heart with my pain.
God gently walked with me, and in His immeasurable kindness, enabled me to recover my spiritual sight. He rescued me from the lies that derailed me, reminded me His Presence was with me always, even in trials, and pulled me into the fullness of joy I missed by focusing on the trial.
Wandering a solitary path; despising the silence
Alone, in exile; my own voice echoes.
Joy. Grasping, Clutching; Counterfeit.
Lost in confused discontent.
Sanctification; the price of blood, redeeming my exile
United with Christ, His likeness to be.
Joy. Bestowed, Received; Genuine.
God’s Joy pursuing me.
With each purging of the dross of selfish desires, and each dead, fruitless branch pruned, my joy grows more like His. Ultimately, it is not my searching for joy, but God’s joy pursuing me; is not that pursuit at the heart of the Gospel?
trusting when joy seems hidden
Trusting God when joy seems hidden taught me many things. Perhaps the most essential lesson imprinted upon my heart while walking through the hard places of the past month, abides in trusting God’s Presence in the absence of joy. The realization struck me my grasping for joy equalled ensuring God’s Presence.
Forgetting in fact, it is the other way around. God promises He goes before me and will never leave me; I have His Presence always. (Deuteronomy 31:6) Coveting joy as evidence of His Presence cheapens the true essence of godly joy. For all joy flows from Him. If I abide in Him and He in me, (John 15:4-5), I am His, and He is mine; His joy is my joy. No effort at maintaining or holding onto joy results in the settled, contentment of the joy found in simply resting in the knowledge of His abiding Presence.
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