Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 ESV)
Anticipation was stirred up in my soul when I knew that Heaven would be my permanent home after declaring Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Eternal life would be perfect and joyful because he prepared a place where there would be zero disappointment, sorrows, and pain; sin and death would be eliminated once and for all.
For days, I walked with a happy bounce in my step, like a child who was told that that we were all going to Disneyland on Saturday. The Gospel excited me because my mind and heart were opened to a new understanding of God. As time went on, my joy slowly sank back down to the “toils under the sun” of what we call normalcy – being an adult with adult responsibilities. There was more work to be done and Jesus immediately enrolled me into his school of discipleship where my newfound faith would be applied and tested.
I was ushered into God’s purposes and plans with much patience exercised on his part. Whenever I veered off track, he nudged me with circumstances so I would return to the right pathway. I found myself becoming less joyful because my spiritual journey would take me on to what I considered detours from those high mountaintop experiences. While those were great moments of spiritual growth, he challenged me to walk through the valleys of repentance and reconciliation where he could chip away the stone that was built around my heart. Spiritual growth felt like serious business, and it really showed in my daily demeanor. In the middle of all my frustrations and frowning, I wondered, “Where did my joy go?”
Solomon wrote a reminder that we are to enjoy what the Lord has given us, even the ability to give thanks and praise for opportunities to make right with whatever we did wrong. Yes, we are going to face many challenges, but they should never prevent us from enjoying what life has to offer.
As I pause to reflect on God’s goodness, I realized joy always remained in my heart. What happened was that I became preoccupied with those trials and tribulations that Jesus warned us about. I wouldn’t say they were all newsworthy events, but they all fit into the category of ordinary:
- Relationship conflicts
- Work stress
- Financial worries
- Health scares
Based on my experience, I affirm that God will occupy us with the joy in our hearts if we allow him to heal and restore whatever he wants to work on in us. With daily surrender and obedience, we may soon find ourselves completely changed and open to appreciate his wonderful work all around us. A simple cool breeze, the tweeting of a bird, or the sound of giggling children can all be gentle reminders that he is with us and that we have a friendship with him.