As I began to read Day 35 of 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life by Tommy Newberry, I thought I knew where he was going with his analogy. He was describing his big family Christmas gatherings.
I know about these as my three sisters and I, all our spouses and kids, my grandmother and parents made quite a crew crowded around the Christmas tree. It took us nearly four hours to open all the gifts. My mother insisted we stop and watch each present being opened. No going on until each one was held up for everyone to see and admire.
Newberry’s family didn’t seem to follow this routine. Each family unit was issued a trash bag and often, in the rush to open the present and tidy the scene, the gift would also be discarded. By the time it was missed, the huge garbage bags had also been used as receptacles for leftover food and dirty diapers. It took real desire, and fortitude to sort through those nasty bags before the joyful cry of “I found it!” was heard from the determined seeker.
His book is about living a life of joy to the maximum. As a Christian, I cherish Jesus’s declaration, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness (John 10:10). What could produce more joy than knowing my Savior’s desire for me is to have a rich and satisfying life and that He died and rose from the grave to make sure that I have access to that life?
How fitting, I thought, that I should read this chapter of the book on Good Friday, the remembrance of the day on which Jesus died for me. When I read about their fevered search for the lost items, I was anticipating references to the parables in Luke 15 telling of the how the shepherd left the 99 sheep to go after the one that was lost, how the housewife swept the house clean searching for the one coin that had fallen from her stash, and most importantly, how the father kept watch for the prodigal son and how he rejoiced at his homecoming. I was thinking of the beautiful song, Reckless Love, by Cory Asbury, that brings me to tears every time I hear it. (You can let it wreck you here: Reckless Love by Cory Asbury.)
But no, his point was that God created you with a purpose and that you should look just that hard to find it. Until you discover it, you will never find the key to true joy. Every experience, every good character trait, every opportunity in your life, were designed by God for the singular place you fill in history.
With all due respect to the author, the Westminster Shorter Catechism expressed man’s purpose well when it stated, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Jesus, Himself stated our purpose as this, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27 NIV). I will grant Newberry that accepting this purpose and living it out with everything God has given me is joyful.
Newberry states, “You have no greater responsibility than to determine what God put you here on earth to accomplish.” This is your true place, he says. It may be a place that shakes the whole world, or it may be a place that soothes just one tiny home. It doesn’t matter because filling that role brings glory to God. The author states that it’s not always easy to find your place, but it’s worth searching through the muck for. I admit, I looked for my place for a while. I was constantly scanning the horizon for the big thing God had for me to do. He finally gave me a hint, “Look at the end of your arm; what do you see there that needs to be done? Do it.”
Today, as we look towards Easter in the middle of a world turned upside down by the Coronavirus, I thank God that He searched for me until He found me. He’s promised to keep me and that nothing and no one can ever snatch me from His hand. Hallelujah!
What’s at the end of your arm today?