Unexpected joy

We may never clearly know why something happened and what purpose it served. But comfort comes from the Lord in his promise of plans that give us hope and a future.

James D. Roecker

Milestones in life are occasions for celebrations. A couple makes special preparations for their 25th wedding anniversary. Surprise birthday parties are planned and sprung on someone’s special day. UW–Stevens Point graduates cap their completion of school with a graduation celebration. Those involved know the moment will come and the experience will most likely be enjoyable. Planned events come with expectations, especially when you know what’s coming. Aside from a surprise birthday party, all these milestones have an expected joy attached.

The opposite also can be true. Regardless of how meticulously you plan a celebration, unexpected things may pop up. Your entrée choice at your wedding anniversary restaurant is unavailable. The birthday cake is forgotten for the surprise party. Not enough food was ordered for the graduation party, so some people leave hungry and a tad disappointed. The unexpected threatens to ruin the joy of special celebrations. Uncertainty tends to undermine owning the joy of the moment. Even the encouragement—expect the unexpected—does not really help put the mind at ease.

Plans we make and the expectations we have for them pale in comparison to the plans the Lord has for his people. And the Lord’s plans always come to be just as he prepared them. The Lord even gives us this promise: “ ‘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).

Life brings moments that we do not fully understand. We may never clearly know why something happened and what purpose it served during our earthly journey. But comfort comes from the Lord in his promise of plans that give us hope and a future. We now can live in peace and joy with eyes that look forward to an unknown future that culminates with a life that lasts forever in the glory of heaven.

Serving as a campus pastor brings with it certain expected joys. Preparing Bible studies with collegians solely in mind brings joy. Creating an environment that encourages questions and sharing personal spiritual struggles is a unique experience. The Holy Spirit is surely at work, strengthening faith and encouraging Christian brothers and sisters in their walk of faith. Each pastor collegians encounter during their lifetime will, Lord willing, show them Jesus. God will surely make faith grow through Word and sacrament. God, through the apostle Paul tells us: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). Those who share the Word are coworkers in service to God.

Joy in campus ministry can also be unexpected. Texts and phone calls can come at any time of day. Some struggle with temptation and sin. Others want clarification on how a certain portion of Scripture applies to their life. Certain collegians are coming back to the church after a long absence. In these unexpected conversations, the joy is always in showing them Jesus. He alone gives us an enduring joy, an unexpected joy, because he has given us something we do not deserve—forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

James Roecker is pastor at St. Andrew, Saint Paul Park, Minnesota.



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Author: James D. Roecker
Volume 105, Number 7
Issue: July 2018

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