Growing up, finances were often tight — so now that I’m older, I appreciate the financial sacrifice my parents made to take my brother and me to Hawaii for Christmas one year. Forty years later, my family still talks about that amazing trip. On walks along the beach I was sure I’d never seen water so blue or held a hand so strong as my dad’s.
It was as if real life held its breath for a precious week.
I’ll be retracing those memories next week when my own family travels to Hawaii for Christmas. Like my parents, we’ve leaned hard on frequent flyer miles and found change in the couch cushions to make this trip happen. But since we haven’t had a real family vacation in four years and both our kids graduated this year — and Hawaii is the one place we speak regularly that they have wanted to visit but haven’t been — we’re making it happen.
As I pack and prepare to leave in a few days, I’ve adapted an excerpt from my devotional, Find Joy for you this week. Revisiting it has helped me recapture sweet memories about my dad, who passed away exactly three years ago. It also has renewed in me a deep longing for the joy we will know one day when we see the glory of heaven. I hope it draws you into this powerful mystery, too.
Find Joy, Day 60
The Beautiful Road Map
I have a picture in my mind. I am a teenager, walking along a white sand beach in Hawaii, hand in hand with my father. He and my mom scrimped, saved, and used frequent flyer miles to fly themselves, me, and my brother to Hawaii for Christmas.
Nothing could prepare me for what I saw as we traveled around the area where we were staying. I had seen pictures and videos. I had read guidebooks and imagined it in my mind. But until I experienced the deep blue ocean and towering green mountains firsthand, I could not comprehend how beautiful it was. I was filled with awe. I could finally understand what everyone had been trying to explain.
Here’s the thing: Joy is like that, too. The Bible is our road map and guide to a depth of beauty in our relationship with God that is almost inexplicable. Many verses act as signposts to finding that joy. And when we experience such a joy even when it “shouldn’t” be there, in the face of sorrow or uncertainty, there is simply nothing like it. It is a mystery — and a true gift from God.
It also points us to another mystery, one that we can only imagine in our minds: the glory of heaven.
God calls us to pursue and find joy here, but this world is not our home. Here, our joy will inevitably be shadowed. But in eternity, in the presence of God, there will be no shadows. There will be none of the pain and loss that stalks our world (Revelation 21:4). Think of it: we will join in the worship of Jesus with the same angels who declared the “good news of great joy” two thousand years ago!
That should be our ultimate source of true joy. We will see Him face-to-face.
We are called to press into our relationship with Him here, even as we long for the day when there is nothing between us.
That is where my sweet dad is now. After a devastating stroke and a multi-year battle, he is walking with Jesus. It makes me ache with joy to think of what he is experiencing. It also makes me ache with joy to think that someday, I’ll be able to walk hand in hand with my dad again. That is the true joy that God has for all of us who follow Jesus.
Back in the present, I’d like to pull the curtain back a little more on why I selected this devotional excerpt for you this week.
Earlier, I wrote that when I was a teenager in Hawaii, it felt like real life held its breath. The same thing happened in a field two thousand years ago when an angel announced to a group of unsuspecting shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11, NASB). Real life held its breath and heavenly glory invaded the world.
Friends, we don’t have to take a vacation or be visited by angels to have that same sense of wonder. We can live with that joyful expectation right now — and all year long. “Good news of great joy” has come, in the person of Jesus! He was born to bring us joy even in our insecurity, heartache, loneliness, or struggle.
Next week, I’ll remember walking with my dad in a Hawaiian paradise, and I’ll imagine him walking in a heavenly paradise. What a source of joy — and yet grief at the same time. I so miss my sweet dad. My thoughts turn to those of you missing someone this Christmas. I know it’s hard.
But this I also know: Joy can be found even when there’s a lump in our throat. Let’s look for it in the deep well of our memories. Let’s lean toward it by anticipating our heavenly home that awaits. And while we’re at it, let’s find joy in the here and now. When we invite joy to enter our hearts — just as Jesus entered our world two thousand years ago — we show a watching world the best demonstration of our faith. We show them what “good news of great joy” looks like: the light of Jesus that shines for all to see.
This blog is an excerpt from Shaunti Feldhahn’s devotional, Find Joy: A Devotional Journey to Unshakable Wonder in an Uncertain World.
This article was also published at Patheos.
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