On Wednesday nights at the Post our students participate in connect group. We use connect group to intentionally deepen relationships with each other. In order to do this we are currently focusing on sharing stories. In the past, our students participated in an activity to identify values. We found that as a group they place a high value on humor. In light of this, the discussion prompt for connect this week was “tell a funny story”.
If you have ever met teenagers, you might not be surprised to hear that most of the stories shared were about poop. Yes, we talked about poop for twenty minutes. The stories were told in theatrical and amusing ways. We had a great time laughing with each other and hearing stories from each other’s childhoods, even if they were poop stories. As I was reflecting back on group, I realized something. Poop, a thing usually seen as gross and messy, was bringing us joy.
There is no way around it, in life we have messy situations. Honestly, messy is an understatement. We have moments in life that would be impossible to walk through if not for God’s goodness. These if-not-for moments often take away our joy. They take many forms– death, a devastating diagnosis, a lost job, an estranged family member– whatever the situation may be, it feels impossible. When we walk through these moments, joy is far from our minds. Our days are clouded by sadness, doubts, and despair. Thankfully, although we have to wait, for every if-not-for moment, God gives us joy.
Seeds of Joy
Although joy is a construct, let’s think about it as an object. Imagine with me that joy is a seed. The seed contains the DNA of the plant. The DNA determines what sort of plant will grow. Not only does the seed contain the DNA, it contains a supply of food to sustain the seed until the plant is able to take root and create food on its own. On the outside of the seed is a seed coat. This coat exists to protect the seed from disease and insects. The coat also stops water from getting into the seed before it is ready to germinate. A seed contains everything the plant needs until the proper time for it to emerge.
Often, we think of joy as something we must conjure up. We think of it as a feeling we somehow have to produce from inside of ourselves. I believe however, that God is a gardener, and he plants seeds of joy. After he plants a seed of joy in our life, he tends to it until it takes root. He plants it in us and then helps it grow. God acts as the protective coat around our seed of joy. He keeps disease from killing it and allows it to bloom at just the right time. When joy grows up, like a mighty tree, it creates more seeds of joy. God plants these new seeds and our joy is multiplied.
As We Wait
Sometimes, it can feel like God left us out when he was gardening. We become so overwhelmed by our if-not-for moments that we believe he has forgotten us. We believe there is no hope of joy. Thankfully, God actually promises to give us joy. Not feeling joy in an if-not-for moment doesn’t mean there is something spiritually wrong with us– it doesn’t mean we lack faith. It just means we’re still in the waiting period. God doesn’t give us plants of joy, he gives us seeds of joy. Joy, just like a seed, needs time to grow. God will tend to it and it will take root at just the right time.
As we wait, I would like to offer some hope. God promises to plant joy. In Isaiah 61:3, the Bible says he will come to earth to “provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” He says the people who receive these things “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, he read these verses and said he was the fulfillment of this prophecy. We know that God will do what he said he will do. 2 Corinthians 1:20 states, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.”
Life can be messy. We all have moments that are impossible if not for God’s goodness. In these moments, God, like a gardener, plants seeds of joy in our lives. He tends to the seeds until they takes root and grow. We have to wait through the growing process though. God gives us joy seeds, not joy plants. But in the waiting take heart, God promises us joy and is faithful to fulfill his promises. May joy be planted in your heart like a seed and grow in your life at just the right time.