The first time I found poison ivy, I was looking for something entirely different—a ring, to be exact.
My dad had just purchased an eighty-acre apple orchard in tremendous need of cultivation and care (which is a generous way of saying it was neglected and run down), and our family was in the process of moving there. At the time of this incident, we were staying at the orchard for a few days.
The trees were in full bloom with petals already dropping, making a gorgeous canopy of white flowers above with a white carpet beneath. To a twelve-year-old city girl, this orchard idea seemed quaint and romantic. It was the perfect setting for a walk of the sort Anne of Green Gables would have taken, and I probably imagined myself her while I walked up and down the rows of apple trees absentmindedly pulling my ring up and down my finger.
Absent minded, that is, until I realized the ring was missing. I must have pulled it up once without getting it pushed down.
My delightful walk turned into a frantic crawling on my hands and knees carefully attempting to separate the grass with my fingers while trying to keep a sharp eye for a hint of something round or shiny.
As I searched, I kept coming across strange-looking growths—ugly black mushrooms of some sort. In my annoyance, I brushed every one of them over and kept searching for the ring.
I never found the ring. But the following morning, I did find painful blisters which were spread as a rash over both my hands and my legs. And a few days later, I found out what the ugly black mushrooms were when a family friend stopped by with a bread bag full of them. To this day, I am very allergic to poison ivy, and to this day, I love morel mushrooms!
What an upside down afternoon. I looked for a ring, overlooked mushrooms, and found poison ivy. Bad deal. Bad day.
Let’s say, though, that you’re looking for joy. Where would you find it?
Under a canopy of apple blossoms?
At an amusement park?
In a quiet corner with a book?
We tend to think a path of excitement or pleasure will give us joy.
But there is one place to find joy…and that is in the presence of God.
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.—Psalm 36:7–9
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.—Psalm 16:11
Read Psalm 16:11 again, and notice where God manifests His presence. It’s not only at church or in the deep, revelatory moments of life. The fullness of joy promised in Psalm 16:11 is found while walking on the ordinary “path of life.”
This is joy you can experience—not just on Sunday, but on Monday, too! And Tuesday and Wednesday and…every day.
This is the joy we can have simply in knowing Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23) and in remembering the promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
Whatever activities, events, or places your day may hold, remember, joy is not found in these—it is found in the presence of God: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy.” And it is found in the mundane, ordinary duties of our lives when we are aware of His abiding presence.
You and I can know full joy in the ups and downs of our very ordinary lives when we are living in the presence of God.
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.—Psalm 91:1
Do you want to find abiding joy? If you look for it in places or activities, you’re likely to find that some of these hold hidden sorrows and others are so close you miss them. But if you look for it in the presence of Jesus, you’ll find it…and so much more!
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.—Jeremiah 29:13