I love looking at recipes. Imagining the flavors that can be produced through a dozen or so ingredients and a little time spent in the kitchen can be stimulating. Five minutes on Pinterest and I can have a month’s worth of meals pinned to my “food is a gift” board. Oh, and desserts! Don’t even get me started on desserts! I mean, it’s fall…and can you just imagine sinking your teeth into a homemade pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling? Or a hot apple dumpling with caramel sauce? Ah…recipes. (I know some of you are “anti-recipe,” and prefer to cook as you go, making it up. But there is a method and ingredients that go into your cooking…that’s still a recipe!)
Has it ever occurred to you that your life is God’s recipe for your joy?
“Now what?” you say. “My life is anything but a recipe for joy right now. I got problems. Issues. People that don’t respect me. Kids that won’t listen. A husband that hasn’t worked in over a year…or 2, or… Like I said, I got problems.”
Or maybe your life has been hit by some pivotal things…cancer, bankruptcy, marital unfaithfulness.
“Is that still God’s recipe for joy?” you ask.
Oh, I think so. Here’s the thing: as Christians (read: those who have given their lives over to God through Jesus’ death on the cross) we are called by God to find joy in Him. Where and when are we going to find our joy in Him? Well, it’s not just something we have to wait until heaven to find. It’s in the now, the here, in the life we are currently living. In these circumstances we keep waiting on (and praying for) to change, so that we can be joyful, what if we’re actually missing the means of joy right in front of us? The ingredients, so to speak, of joy? Can we press through the obvious difficulty to see the love of God beckoning us to come to him, more fully and deeply, in the midst of the trial?
The older we get, the more we realize that hardships don’t really go away. Not in this life. God tells us we will have hardship in this life, but that we should rejoice, because He has overcome this life. If we can only find joy in the absence of hardship, that “joy” is conditional. That’s the “joy” of the world. But that’s not the joy God gives. Worldy wisdom says: “When life is great, I might have some joy. But when life is bad, well…I just have to wade through it ’til it’s good again.”
That’s not the way Scripture teaches it. In fact in God’s word, we see just the opposite.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Hardship is the ingredient God often uses to bring out the flavor, so to speak, of our joy. Look at it this way, if God can be the source of our delight when all around us things seem to be falling apart, then He, our true Treasure, must be infinitely greater, more profound, more transcendent than all we can set our eyes on in this world. What one thing gives life to us when all around us we see death and depravity? Our God. Our Jesus. And if our lives have just the right ingredients (and they do…and they are often hardships), chosen by the Master to produce the most savory of joys, we will look through the difficult circumstances to the One Treasure who gives meaning and purpose to it all.
We can be like the woman in Proverbs 31:25 who, “laughs without fear of the future,” not because her life has been hunky-dory, but because the God who holds her life will not do her any true harm, but only ultimate good.