What do you want right now? What you really desire in this season of life? What’s that thing you wonder about while lying awake at night or before rising in the morning? I’m not talking about world peace, salvation for everyone on earth, and food for all the starving children. Those are great...but no.
I’m talking about your personal desires, goals. What makes your smile waver when you see other people with the thing you want but don’t have? That makes you feel the world as you know it will end if you don’t get it?
Got it in mind? Now answer this:
What do you want life to be like if you never get it?
(Blank stare). "Um, Lis...what do you mean?"
I mean, imagine a life where you would never receive that thing. What do you want your life to look like?
"Why would I waste energy imagining life without it? Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Also - death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), so I’m not going to speak lack over my life!! And besides, God gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11), so...I know I’m going to get what I’ve been believing for."
Maybe you didn’t respond that way to my question. But I did when it was asked of me.
So, what is it that I want?
Eep. Vulnerable moment alert. I’m going to follow the example of my dear friend Mac (who writes so vulnerably on her blog), and I’m just going to close my eyes and jump in.
I want to end my current status of being single.
I’ve been wanting to begin my journey of meeting and getting to know my life partner, forever friend. It’s awkward to admit on a public forum (flashback to nightmares of showing up to class in my underwear) and in a time of life where various precious friends are in beautiful relationships. (I’m genuinely happy for y’all - you know this!). I’m not thinking about the ridiculous “ticking clock,” eggs drying up, or wanting to get married before I have a head full of silver hair (first silver appeared at age 19).
I’ve been thinking about sunsets that would be nice to share with someone. Moments when I want to talk to someone, but I don’t feel like chatting with a girlfriend, or my family, or even God. Wanting to build and grow with someone.
And I’ve felt discontent.
Earlier this month, a good friend of mine told me she is studying the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. Her excitement about what she’s been learning encouraged me to do the same. So far, I’ve covered the first four listed in Galatians 5:22. On my second day of the study, my experience reading verse 22 went like this:
“...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” Ugh. (Side-eye). God, can you please remove this mirror from my face? I genuinely smile, I feel truly happy for and with others. But I’m discontent when I look at myself. And if I’m discontent, I am lacking joy.
I then asked the logical next question: “How can I get joy?” Right now I don’t feel that same joy I felt when my relationship with Jesus first began.
The phrase “...that your joy may be full” popped into my mind. I immediately asked Dr. Google for assistance, and I was led to John 15:10-13, where Jesus says to His disciples:
"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
Jesus wants me to obey the Father’s command. The Father’s command is: love other people sacrificially. As I do that, I will be engulfed by the love of the Father. And the joy that Jesus has will be the joy that I have. And my “joy bucket” won’t have any empty ounces. It’ll be full to the brim - overflowing even.
Jesus willingly endured great pain for me, and He wasn’t always happy, yet He still had joy. In the words of my dear friend, Jesus endured the pain of the cross, but He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. The joy of making it possible for me to know God as Jesus knows Him, and walk in an eternal, beautiful relationship with the Father. And that same Jesus-joy is accessible to me. Selah.
When I read this article (Single Truths), I was told point-blank I might not get married. Marriage is not a guarantee. But the writer asked me what I want my life to be like if I never got married.
Here’s part of my answer: I want a full Joy Bucket. I want to travel the world. I want to maintain strong relationships with my friends and family and spend quality time with them. I want to live a life that makes people curious and excited about Jesus. I want to learn more languages. I want to see systems enhance life and health outcomes, instead of destroying them. And I want to be an extra on the set of an action movie.
Not being in a dating relationship influenced my joy, not just my happiness. At times I’ve kept myself too busy to think about it. But ignoring the gnawing at my heart didn’t make it go away. Intentionally spending time in God’s Word is helping to reshape my thinking...and revitalize my relationship with God. Actively loving has been giving me opportunities to experience joy in new ways.
I ask you again. What do you want life to be like if you never get that [X]? That job? Career milestone? Salary? House? Grad school acceptance? Grade? Car? Acceptance into a tight-knit circle of friends? Marriage? Child?
This week, assess the status of your Joy Bucket. Journal about it. Discuss with a close friend or your discipleship group. Whatever it is, do something. Because we’re not guaranteed everything we want, no matter how good it is. We were not designed for the fulfillment of our desires to determine the breadth and depth of our joy.
About the Author: Elisabeth (Lis) is a recent graduate of UofM’s Master of Public Health program. When she’s not wading through the uncertainties of entrepreneurship as she launches a start-up focused on end-of-life healthcare decision making, making drinks at Starbucks (or doing the non-glamorous aspects of barista life), Lis loves to sit at a piano, blast various international music, or curl up with a good book.