"Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11
What joy looks like...
Growing up. We grow up in many different ways. Physically our bodies grow, our features change from the cute, chubby baby that goos with glee to the independent toddler who begins to speak their mind. Then comes the awkward stages of elementary school when our bodies grow disproportionately to our playmates that leads right into dreaded adolescence when our bodies seem to grow with a mind all their own. Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 20 our bodies reach maturity. Finally!
But wait! It doesn't stop there. Our minds and emotions are all mixed up in this growing-up process too. And, for many of us, our heads and hearts take longer to mature. We go from the joyful, carefree, gooing baby to the snappy happy toddler ready to conquer the world to the emotional basket case of adolescence and independence in only 10 short years. The hardest stage, I think, is the next decade between adolescence and adult. Looking back, those years in my life were full of melancholy.
It seemed back then my mood could swing with the changing winds. My joy, my happiness was dependent on what I thought others thought of me; how I thought others perceived me. If I thought others like me or my accomplishments, then I was happy. If I felt I disappointed others, thought they disliked me or what I'd accomplished, then I was sad, melancholy. Imature, really.
But that changed as I grew up. I learned that if I stopped trying to please people and concerned myself more with pleasing the One who created me, my joy grew. I learned that as I drew closer to my Creator, I found my purpose; what He created me for. I discovered that striving toward my purpose, I matured. As I matured in my faith and my purpose, God gave me people who encouraged me and whom I could encourage.
I find it ironic how Paul concludes his second letter to the Corinthian church with both a command to be joyful and to grow up. The two are interrelated. Whether it be emotional or spiritual maturity, joy accompanies both. We are meant to encourage one another and be united in one purpose: to proclaim the good news of Christ's resurrection and salvation to those who have not heard. This proclamation, this news is the greatest joy!