Joy in Our Sacrifice…

A Year of Joy

When we are called to analyze how we achieve a joy filled life or identify even the littlest of moments which do bring us joy, we often have to go back to the things we overlook. Along those lines, we need to think about our entire life which can include things that carry a negative connotation with them. In that spirit, I have chosen to help us look at the way we can allow joy to enter in the sacrifices throughout our life.

The mere idea that you must sacrifice one thing to gain something else makes people skeptical and wary. Some might even worry that what they’re trading is not going to provide the same value as what they’re giving up. However, if we are true to who we desire to be, than every time we sacrifice, there should be joy attached to it because of what or who you are sacrificing for. Think about it: in family, it’s to help your spouse or children. In work, it’s about living your passion. Iin friendship, it’s about making someone special know you care. Even for yourself, when you sacrifice vices you once clinged to, you are doing it to be the best version of who God created you to be. If you are not experiencing joy in any of this, then the bigger question becomes – who are you truly serving and what are you making your life about?

In my life, I look back at my journey to see where sacrifices became gateways for me to change for the better. When I was twenty-four years old I had been married four years, had a financially sound career, and seasonally played softball two nights a week and then bowled with my buddies for two nights in that season. Golf and a nap was my Saturday routine and on Sundays I played flag football and would decide whether or not church would be part of our schedule as a couple (truth be told, Aimee didn’t care what I said and would go without me anyway). I had a life which was very self serving and my happiness derived from what I could take out of it: After all, my theory was that I worked hard and deserved to play just as hard. The following year something happened which changed me forever and became my first real lesson in the beauty of sacrifice: I became a father. Nathan Gregory was born Christmas Day, 1999 and the minute I held him nothing else mattered and there was no activity at that point in time which was going to take me away from my baby boy. I was positively transformed in that moment which immediately yielded growth with me as a person. It wasn’t just the responsibility of being a father, but I deeply wanted to be better because of my son. For any of us, real change, changes not only our priorities, but it also changes how we continually seek more joy in our lives. Without surprise, a year after Nathan was born, my schedule ladened activities slowly began to diminish. My friends would ask me how I could give it all up. I didn’t have the words or the answers for them because they couldn’t experience what I felt. I just knew these sacrifices to be a father were bringing me a feeling nothing else was able to. I didn’t understand it back then as “joy”, but I can see now that I replaced my extracurricular activities with life sustaining joy through the meaningful relationship I was building as a father, which transformed me into a better husband and helped me to become an even better friend.

The example I use today is about being a parent because I didn’t always understand it for what it really was when it first took place. As I look back now, I know how beautiful it has turned out as I watch my fifteen year old son continue to develop into a young man. My initial “yes” to sacrifice still calls me today to lay down my life for my family, and that brings me more joy than you could ever imagine. Quite frankly, I share all this with you because I want you to experience this same joy in all you do in life, even if its sacrificial purpose is not evident when it occurs. Even if you are not a parent, there are an abundance of examples you can find which cutting back in one area, makes the most sense in order to grow in another.

We must all take a deep look into our lives and recognize where we have come from. Joy is not fulfilled through superficial things, that is called pleasure or momentary happiness that will eventually fade with time. Yes, people will sometimes accuse you of being crazy for your sacrifices and judge you because they don’t possess the same courage as you. You must know what brings YOU joy, and stop trying to serve the world or someone else’s vision of what you should be doing.

We can relate this notion of joy even during this season of Lent. Our sacrifices as Christians can have the same life altering effects if we allow them. To be clear, I am not talking about the chocolate you gave up for forty days, I am talking about the changes you desire because you may have heard the whisper of God’s voice in prayer, or when you have witnessed someone working as His hands and feet right before your very eyes. Sacrifices in life do not have to be negative and what we give up to grow closer to God doesn’t have to be either. I have never sacrificed anything in the name of love for my wife, my family, my friends or my faith which has not brought me delight by letting it go to replace it with a life sustaining joy; I pray you can feel the same. Stop seeing the transitions of life and what you have given up as a negative, and recognize your growth as one of the greatest blessings you’ve received. Be nothing more than God created you to be by transitioning yourself out of some old habits into a few life giving ones which yield real joy.