The album included a song titled, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” whose lyrics acknowledged the artist’s faith, but still offered a look into his spiritual doubt. One particular verse of the song reads:
“I believe in the Kingdom Come…You know I believe it. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…”
Have I found what I am looking for? I began considering my own personal journey of faith, often traveling through a spiritual desert of suffering that causes doubt and discouragement. Only by God’s grace, I am no longer searching to find the Savior of my soul, Jesus, as God saved me over 20 years ago, but I was a bit surprised when I realized a couple years ago that something seemed missing from my life, or maybe just hidden, which led me on my own quest to find what I was looking for.
What was I searching for? What had been lost that I desperately wanted to find? Or had I ever really possessed it in the first place? Maybe I found a slight version of it, but not the genuine artifact. I’m not referring to a tangible object that can be purchased; rather I was looking for JOY, a gift to be received. I wanted to find JOY so badly, since my pursuit for happiness in the mist of difficulty was falling short to satisfy me. There had to be more. So I began to ask God to show me where to find JOY. I wanted to experience the JOY that His Word describes in detail. I wanted nothing less than the real deal. According to Nehemiah 8:10b, “the JOY of the LORD is your strength.” I needed strength and it had to begin with God’s JOY.
It didn’t take long for God to direct me in finding the JOY I was looking for. But He reminded me that genuine JOY begins with Him, not with our circumstances. Isaiah 58:14 offers truth about honoring God in how we live our lives, so that “you will find your JOY in the LORD.” When we seek to find JOY in our experiences or in other people, we are really seeking temporary happiness. I wanted to know the JOY that remains and is evidently displayed in a Christ-follower regardless of adversity because of WHO that JOY is founded in. King David must have been on a similar quest as he spoke of the LORD in Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with JOY in Your presence...”
In summer 2013, God guided my family and me to a location we had never been before. It was Camp Allen, outside Houston, TX. I thought we were strictly going there to attend and enjoy a Joni and Friends Family Retreat, which ministers to families who care for a loved one who lives with disability. Surprisingly, I found that God also brought us to this unexpected place where I could find the desperately-needed JOY of the LORD that I had been searching for. God not only enabled me to see His authentic JOY in full action during camp week, but to also experience it personally alongside other families who shared similar challenges as our own.
When you share time at camp with over 40 other families who have all been affected by disability, it silences and humbles you. You realize you are not the only family traveling through the desert and that other God-fearing families are seeking refreshment from their weariness just like you are. God’s grace is sufficient for each day, but sometimes that grace offers much-needed rest from our usual routine of physical limitations and heavy burdens. During the Family Retreat, God encouraged us with His constant presence and fellowship with other believers, while caring for us through the ministry of Joni and Friends. He lavished us with His unlimited JOY that goes beyond personal happiness and ease.
God used Short Term Missionaries (STMs) to love on our family and give us renewed hope in His goodness and grace. They spent time daily with our sons and the other children as personal buddies to help them participate in various sports, engage in fun activities and events, and most importantly teach them about Jesus and His love for them. They genuinely cared for us with natural enthusiasm while honoring God in the process. My husband and I were able to spend time alone together without being overwhelmed with distraction and responsibility while our kids were wonderfully cared for. For the first time since our journey began as parents to a child with disability, we felt a sense of belonging regardless of our differences.
Seeing kids with disability honoring God their Creator by just being who He designed them to be granted me a new perspective on experiencing the JOY of the LORD. I believe I finally understood how God delights in His creation, even if we don’t. Our first and last breath on earth comes from God, and so does His JOY. Looking for JOY elsewhere is useless. After all, I discovered that JOY wasn’t really lost, but it was right where it has always been...in the arms of Jesus. I just needed to see it in an unexpected place and embrace the JOY that was given. I definitely found what I was looking for.
I am thankful for God and His work through Joni and Friends, who have been used by God for 35 years to impact multiple families affected by disability, including mine. You can learn more about Family Retreats, volunteering as an STM, and the ministry of Joni and Friends by visiting www.joniandfriends.org.
“May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)