Faith and joy are two things singles seek--often without even knowing it.
We learn, over the years, that it's not really happiness we're seeking but joy. Happiness comes and goes. It's fleeting. It depends on our circumstances.
Joy, on the other hand, is soul-deep, echoing in the core of your being. Happiness is like seeing a photo of a hot fudge sundae. Joy is having a hot fudge sundae right in front of you with a spoon handy, ready to eat.
In the Christian life, you can't have faith without joy, and vice versa. Like the man in the gospel with the sick son, we want to believe, but we need help from God. How do we get that help? How do we take that leap when everything in us tells us not to?
We're not babies any more. We don't want to be helpless. We want to be independent single people, living, working, and thriving on our own. Well, okay then, we would like to be married, but even in that situation we don't want to be helpless.
And yet, one of the great paradoxes of life is that we are helpless. When it comes to getting into heaven, there's not a darn thing we can do on our own to wedge our foot inside the pearly gates before they slam shut. We need Jesus, and the work he did on the cross. We only get into heaven through grace, God's free gift for our taking.
Most of us can accept grace. We can understand the theology that we can't get into the kingdom of God through our own works.
But when it comes to the rest of our life, we don't want to admit our helplessness. We want to be big boys and girls, doing it on our own, knocking down achievements like so many bowling pins. Education? No problem. Career? I can do that. Relationships? Well, it's getting a little tougher.
Eventually a disaster elbows its way into our life and suddenly we're not in control any more. When it doesn't get better or we can't fight our way out of it, we begin to get panicky. If we're wise, we'll see we're not as independent as we thought. In fact, we're more helpless than we want to admit.
We really can't have an intimate relationship with Jesus until we recognize our helplessness. Once we lose faith in our own abilities, then we're ready to turn to Christ.
This is a painful transition. Our illusion that we're pretty hot stuff is shattered. We realize we can't fix everything. We see, maybe for the first time, that we can't be whatever we want to be. Reality hits with the force of a ten-ton semi truck.
Faith requires that we humble ourselves and reach out. The apostle Peter thought he was pretty cool walking on water, until he looked at the waves and wind. Then he started to sink. We need to do what he did: Reach out and ask Jesus to grab our hand.
That's when faith starts.
When we take our eyes off ourselves and our own inadequacy, then we can put them on God and his all-sufficiency. He has power we can't even dream of. When it seems like the end of our personal world is coming and then God rescues us out of it, that's a life-changing experience.
I wish it were easy. In my own life, faith comes and goes. When trouble goes on longer than I want, my faith grows weak. When I keep praying for the same thing for months and years and nothing happens, I have doubts. I wish it weren't so, but I'm human, and I know Satan is doing everything he can to rattle me as well. I think you know how it feels. I'll bet you feel the same way.
Faith and joy come with the Holy Spirit propping us up. We stagger
under the burdens of being single. The Holy Spirit, that unappreciated
member of the Trinity, puts his arms around us and keeps us from hitting
the canvas. He revives our faith.
There's a minor joy in turning the heavy lifting over to God. It takes a lot of stress off your back. As we understand that God has us covered, our joy increases. Faith leads to joy, that exquisite knowledge that Perfect Love has you in his grip and he's not going to let you down.
As we mature, we get closer to the answer. When Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life," he wasn't using a metaphor. He was revealing what we're looking for, even if we take a lifetime to see it.
The more you trust God, the greater your faith. The greater your faith, the deeper your joy. This cause-and-effect is simple yet profound. You can't settle for the cotton candy lightness of happiness. It doesn't nourish you. It doesn't last.
Faith and joy. That's the answer. Trusting and receiving. That's the way to the contentment you and I are after.