Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Joy can be real only if people look on their life as a service, and have a definite object in life outside themselves and their personal happiness.” Tolstoy was right. This life isn’t about us. It’s about God. We were created for something bigger and more meaningful than our plans for our lives. We were created for God, Almighty God, who desires a living, growing, vital relationship with each of us. He waits patiently each day, longing to hear from us, longing for us to spend time with Him. Yet so often in the midst of our busy days, we ignore Him. Still, He doesn’t leave us, doesn’t turn his back on us, doesn’t sulk in the corner. He waits patiently for His prodigal children to return, to come to the end of themselves and discover a better way. God’s way graces our lives with His perfect peace, regardless of our circumstances, and with joy beyond our greatest expectations.
Four years ago, my five children and I were involved in a serious auto accident. The kids’ injuries healed within weeks. Mine did not. For months, I was frustrated by my limitations and overwhelmed by the constant pain. I didn’t understand why God was pulling me away from serving in ways I truly enjoyed. It didn’t make sense. I was frustrated with God and myself. I didn’t want what God was allowing, and what I did want, He obviously felt I didn’t need.
My attitude was the issue, but I didn’t have the energy or motivation to change it, so I finally enlisted the help of a few close friends – friends I knew would not only pray for me, but would also hold me accountable. As I slowly surrendered to what God was allowing, He showed me that it wasn’t my circumstances preventing me from serving, but my attitude and perspective. While I wasn’t able to help others physically, I was able to pray for them. I did. I do. They are some of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever spent with God. When I am willing, God uses me, often in ways I don’t expect, and always in ways that infuse my soul with His indescribable joy.
Joy isn’t a commodity, something we can attain, but rather a blessing from God as we look beyond ourselves and serve as we are able. A recent British study showed that giving, regardless of the gift, large or small, financial or service, provides greater joy for a longer period of time – five times longer! – than receiving a gift or taking a vacation. God’s way is simple, and it works. It is indeed more blessed to give than to receive, more important to serve than be served, for it is in giving that God’s joy is loosed in our lives; in serving that His peace and contentment flood our souls. God gives us His joy, His way, so that our joy may be complete.
By Cindee Re