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The Greatest Joy

I have just exited a castle-like economics university in Budapest, Hungary, after having spent the afternoon talking to college students just like myself. No, I’m not a foreign exchange student; I’m on a mission trip. My team goes to different universities around the city twice a week, using a survey as a tool to start meaningful conversations with our peers. The final question on the survey poses, “What gives you the greatest joy in life?”

After having talked to a couple dozen Hungarians at this point, I’ve heard every answer from “salsa dancing,” to “family and friends,” to “sex and drinking.” Dazed-looking guys with Eminem T-shirts and scraggly goatees flippantly reply, “Drinking … what else is there?” High society girls in perfectly tailored European suits respond, “I believe that family and friends give me the most joy.” I have heard these answers plus everything in between. Somewhere along the way, I have begun to recognize how similar the mindsets of the young people of this central European nation are to those of my own nation.

Both American and Hungarian cultures encourage the idea of young people discovering what the truth is for themselves. These young adult years are a time of breaking away from the thoughts and beliefs of parents, teachers or other childhood influences, and clinging to a new, individually shaped system of beliefs—even if those beliefs nearly reflect the ones we have grown up hearing. We’re all in the same chapter of our lives. It’s several pages past the first couple of chapters, in which we are introduced to the world and the people around us. We are no longer naïve children; no, we are now familiar with our environment, and we must learn to thrive in it according to what we have found to be true and right thus far.

Occasionally, one of these students, on the same search for absolute truth as I am, will turn the question on me and ask, “So what is your greatest joy in life?”

The typical “raised a Christian, Sunday school, fish bumper sticker” response in me feels like simply exclaiming, “Jesus!” and leaving it at that. That would be the truth. All my joy does spring from Him. But dig a little deeper, I tell myself. Why is that so?

Well, I know for a fact that I serve the one true God. I could state all of the theological, philosophical and historical points I have found that prove that Jesus was, indeed, God—but the biggest evidence for me is that of my own transformed life. Okay, let’s suppose for a moment that there is no God at all and that any kind of “salvation” that I attest to has merely been a product of my own persistency to become a better person. Perhaps I could have brought about a couple of tiny life changes in my own power, but there is no way that I could have conjured up the ability to order my own life in such a way as it has been perfectly arranged.

So there is no doubt in my mind that God exists and that His omnipotence has a prominent place in my everyday life. But why does He give me the greatest joy in life? Because He’s more than just some distant God who watches over me: He’s also my closest friend! I believe that many logical thinkers like myself struggle with the concept of having a close relationship with someone who is unseen. How could this be possible? Instead of focusing on the impossibility of this concept, I have begun to discover the relevancy of having a spiritual relationship.

You see, each relationship that I have on this earth is tangible: I am able to see and touch the people around me. However, I am not always able to see and touch these people, because they are not always around me. They are seen one moment, and unseen the next as they exit a room or hop on a plane.

Conversely, I am unable to see or touch God. My relationship with Him must be based off of my faith that He is who He says He is. One of the things He claims to be is “Emmanuel,” which is Hebrew for “God with us.” That doesn’t mean He’s with me part of the time. That doesn’t mean that He has to schedule out the time He’ll spend with me individually between the other six billion people on this earth. While I can’t understand His omnipotence, He is absolutely able and desiring to spend time with me—a sinner who has nothing to offer Him—nonstop: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We can’t understand it. We struggle with the idea of having a relationship with an unseen entity, when in all reality, communing with the unseen is the one relationship that does not have any barriers, unlike all of our physical relationships.

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I have the closest relationship possible with the God of the entire universe! What an amazing thought! He knows my every thought, and I believe that as I continue to know and understand Him better, I’ll begin to think and talk more like Him, as friends tend to do when they hang around each other all the time.

This is what gives me the greatest joy in life: I know the one Truth, and I’m coming to know Him more each day. I occasionally get the opportunity to share this with those university students who are brave enough to ask me the question. And while they may be living out a totally different lifestyle than I am, I’m assured that we’re all on the same chapter entitled something like “Discovering the Truth.” Perhaps their time in that chapter will last a little longer, as they eventually come to realize Who alone can give mankind true joy.

[Lindsay Goodier is a junior studying journalism at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. Her passions include writing, reading and missions.]

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