Departure — a travel word if there ever was one. One of the few times we hear the use of departure is when we’re at the airport, train station, or bus stop, staring hopefully at a board that lists the status of all the departures.
Departures can be grand. I’m an 80s kid, so “Love Boat” comes to mind — a big cruise ship docked at the pier, streamers falling, the deep blast of the ship’s horn resounding the departure while all those on the ship wave madly from their railings to all those on the pier who wave a bit less gladly to those leaving them behind.
Departures can be sad. I’ll never forget the grief and panic I felt as my mom picked up her suitcase and headed out to her car, leaving me with a brand new baby to care for by myself. I think I cried for days. There was also the time my son’s best friend and his family moved away. My three year old would stand at the furthest corner of our property hollering Mitchell’s name as loud as he could, as if Mitchell would hear and come running out to play.
Departures can be scary. There comes the day when we leave home — car packed to the hilt with everything we’ve ever owned. Eyes wide with equal parts excitement and fear because the reality of our future without parents spells freedom and homesickness.
But. Today, the departure that has been held before us for weeks as a beacon to behold has finally arrived. This is a departure full of hope. We’ve prepared. We’ve prayed. We’ve even packed. So, let’s get a little excited! It’s time to depart!!
A Time to Remember
As the confetti flutters to the ground and the ship pushes out to sea, the reality of our choices that have led to this moment causes us to pause. Before we give in to doubt, we remember that for this Journey of Joy we did not pack fear. Nor did we bring along shame or regret. We certainly left behind discouragement and disappointment.
We intentionally didn’t bring them aboard, so let’s vow to one another that anytime one of these entanglers tries to come aboard, we name them for what they are and kick them off.
Let’s also remember that we have packed faith and hope. We’ve tucked trust into all the spaces of our suitcase and wedged wisdom into our carry-on. In our back pocket we’ve placed our want-to, and in our purses we’ve stuffed all the practices we’ll need to keep us in God’s presence. And, because we know it holds all good truth, we’ve grabbed the Guide Book.
We remember to hold this path we’re on loosely, releasing the firm grip that squeezes life out of the best of plans. We walk in surrender to all that God has for us, putting faith in His wisdom, laying down our own insecure need for control.
Out of habit we reach for the detailed plan, only to remember that this trip is different. On this journey, we’re trusting God to point the way, and we’ll faithfully follow the arrows He gives. A niggle of worry tries to break our excitement as we think about past adventures that have ended poorly. Past disappointments are already trying to swamp us. But we remember — God is our guide. He is trustworthy and good. So we step out of the shade into the sun, full of hope for the joy He brings.
We smile because we remember — we’re on a Journey of Joy.
Imagining ourselves on the deck of a great ship helps us see how similar our reality is on this day of departure. Energy and emotion peak, bringing about a resfeber that reverberates in our entire being — all the anxiety of what’s to come collides with the anticipation of what God holds for us.
With all those emotions swirling, we need to breathe deeply and seek God, acknowledging it’s good to have all that excitement. We want our anticipation to build because there’s fun to be had in our imaginings of joy. What we don’t need to do, however, is allow that exhilaration to push us ahead of God.
Wisdom tells us that God has plans for us. The prophet Jeremiah spoke into the mess that was the exile of Israel to offer a now-familiar affirmation,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11
Wisdom tells us that God goes before us. Just as God’s presence was seen tangibly in the cloud and fire going before the Israelites, Isaiah reminded those in exile of God’s faithfulness to continue leading the way:
“For the Lord will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”Isaiah 52:12
Wisdom tells us to have holy expectations of God — that He has plans for us and will go before us. That those plans will be for our good and that He’ll be faithful to continue giving us those arrows. But wisdom also reminds us that all we seek, all we desire happens when we draw near to God. Hear today’s word of joy:
“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”Acts 2:28
Peter, the disciple who’d failed miserably the night of Jesus’ arrest, forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke these words on the day of Pentecost — bold words of truth that moved three thousand to believe Jesus as Messiah. Words inspired by the Spirit, words once spoken by prophets and kings (as seen in Psalm 16).
Words we need today.
Peter affirms what we’ve already been learning — God makes known the paths we are to take. One day at a time, with just enough light to illuminate the next step, the One who is the Light reveals where we are to go.
Peter also teaches a vital truth about joy in his inspired address — joy is found in God’s presence.
So, as we embark on this Journey of Joy, we need to learn the lesson of departure: we take no steps till we have first stepped into God’s presence. For not only will we discover what we desire most, but we’ll also find ourselves wrapped in His perfect love. We’ll find balance in the tension of living in the excitement of what God is doing while not running ahead of Him in our enthusiasm.
Put all that together, and we bask in holy expectation.
Joy — and Peace — in His Presence
Paul reiterates what Peter preached in that first sermon of the early church,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:4-7
From a man locked in a prison comes the call to rejoice! Not some of the time, but always. Have you ever stopped to think that rejoicing is the action of joy? Paul wants believers to grasp the truth that God’s joy is ours no matter the circumstance. Somehow, in the mystery of all that is our Father is the holy ability to find joy — and to rejoice — always.
In The Joyful Life’s study called Counting It All Joy,* author Aimee Walker unpacks these verses in Philippians 4 to remind us, “Joy was not meant to come and go based on circumstances. It was not meant to be snatched away from us. It was intended to be a constant companion, bringing strength to the journey” (64).
In our moment of departure, our hope of finding joy is high. Perhaps we even feel joyful. But, what happens when we don’t feel it? How do we rejoice then? Paul tells us in that tiny, nearly missable statement, THE LORD IS NEAR.
Paul’s prayer for God’s persecuted people to be gentle, non-anxious, prayerful, and grateful is an encouragement — the joy and peace they seek comes because the Lord is near. Just as the Psalmist and Peter declared, it is in God’s presence that true joy is found.
Aimee says it this way, “When we live aware that God is not distant, but Emmanuel, God with us, worry is replaced by peace. Why? Because His presence dispels fear. Because in His presence is fullness of joy” (64).
For the past year I’ve been exploring this practice of entering God’s presence — what it looks like, how it feels, even how to get there more consistently — because I have moments in prayer when I feel His presence. And, sometimes my surrender seems fuller, deeper, and I’ll sense a weight press against me — a wonderful sensation of heaviness that awakens me to a deeper awareness of God’s presence. I’ve researched what that weightiness could be and have found written descriptions from believers who call it the weight of glory — in those moments, I have no fear. Instead, I have an overwhelming sense of peace and joy. I share this without fully understanding it. Yet, I hope it encourages you to really seek God’s presence — to sit in it, rest in it, receive from it. Even when you don’t feel anything, keep seeking Him.
These prayer practices are newer for me, but I specifically turned to them after a New Room Conference I attended where I witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in ways I’d never seen before. People joyfully embraced and shared their gifts of prayer and prophecy, teaching and wisdom without fear and without apology. With great generosity.
Amazed by it all, I found my experience had opened a hunger in me for more of God, specifically for more of the Holy Spirit. All that seeking has led to this Journey of Joy. Realizing and admitting I’d grown weary and even complacent in my spiritual life, I have set out to find this holy joy God promises.
As we’ve been exploring together, we’ve uncovered many truths, and today’s revelation is probably the most important — the fullness of joy is found in God’s presence. I love how Charles Spurgeon says it,
“The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy. My soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of His society.”as quoted in Counting It All Joy, 47
Friends, we dive into Jesus’ deep sea of joy, getting swallowed up in the delight of being with Him. So beautiful. So inviting. This is what we want.
Entering God’s Presence
All the things we’ve packed help us enter the presence of God — trust, hope, our want-to, His Word. But, it’s taking all that into the spiritual practices of prayer, stillness, silence, meditation, and worship so that the barriers within us break down and doors open wide to all things holy.
In your Journal, write down one verse from today’s study that speaks to you most or piques your curiosity. Once you’ve written it, reread it. Then say it aloud. Then sit with it in the stillness and silence, giving the Spirit space to speak. Feel yourself release the tight grip with which you hold assumptions and fears and the desire to control. Ask God to draw near. Seek to be in His presence. Be still and know…
After a few minutes, write about your experience — even if you saw or felt nothing. Writing often opens a door for the Spirit to speak in ways we wouldn’t otherwise hear. Be sure to offer a prayer of thanks to God for His nearness, to Jesus for making a way. And, don’t give up! Entering God’s presence takes practice.
Music and Movement
Eloquent words and deep truths woven together on page or in song move me. As you are aware, I’ve created a playlist for our Journey of Joy that attempts to capture the movements of this expedition. In the music there are moments of sharing and releasing, of stumbling and recovering, of discouragement and discovery — the lyrics and melodies move us along the way.
I’ve added two songs this week because of the way they speak to the truths of our departure — we head out with the holy expectation that God goes before us and that it’s in His presence we find joy.
“The Fullness of Joy” by Caroline Cobb is based on Psalm 16. It’s the fourth song on our playlist, a position of both surrender and inspiration. Sit in the sung truths of God’s place.
“No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” by Steffany Gretzinger pours out as if Steffany is speaking to God. It’s fifth in our playlist because we’re moving into a deeper understanding that going into God’s presence is stepping willfully into His love. And, there, He becomes our joy.
Friends, this departure marks a new beginning — a new way of seeing and seeking joy. Don’t wait any longer to go to God and find the joy He has for you. Meditate on His Word. Let the music stir you. Allow the Spirit to move in you and through you.
In joy and with hope, hold onto holy expectation as we step into the movement of this Journey of Joy. We’ll have plenty of stops along the way to continue what we’ve begun.
So ready for all God has for us, Shelley
- Today I mentioned the study, Counting It All Joy.* While The Joyful Life* offers Bible studies in print or as a digital download, I chose digital and paid $10 for instant access to this study on joy. It’s worth checking out! In general, The Joyful Life is worth looking into. Their spring quarter magazine recently released — called, Create.*
- Take time to process this week’s journal exercise — seek God’s presence and write about your experience!
- Be brave and let us know how you’re feeling as we depart for joy! (in the comments below)
- Just for fun — find the “Easter egg” in this week’s post!. It’s a travel word.
- Last week’s travel word was peripatetic, a fun word for someone who likes to travel!
- Our Journey of Joy playlist on Spotify follows this journey. I’d love to hear what you think of the two new songs added this week. How is music helping you enter God’s presence?
*This is an affiliate link, so I’ll receive compensation for any purchases made.
Featured image by Grant Durr@blizzard88 on Unsplash