May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Volunteering always begins with my heart set on helping the animals, but at the end of every experience, I am touched and changed by the dogs I meet. God has revealed this to me so much recently.
One particular shelter dog, Lucy, had a personality that lit up the room. A petite girl with a lot of spunk, I couldn't help but adore her. Most of all, she was a dog with a heart of joy. Her smile was contagious to all who knew her.
I never would've imagined a dog's smile could make such an impact in my life, but God can use anyone in the smallest of ways. I realized how much happiness I brought to her by taking her out, by giving her rubs, by providing love, and she provided so much happiness and love in my life in return. Her biggest smiles shined every time I rubbed her. Her smiles were enough to make me smile despite all the stress, the sadness, the problems of life. Her joy has taught me so many lessons about my own life.
Stuck in a kennel, injured by her roommate, lacking the love and comfort she deserves, it seemed that she had little reason to be happy. But despite her situation, she had so much joy. Even as she was limping, she ran out of her kennel like she was running a race and was about to win the prize. Maybe she knew there was hope for her future, or maybe she was eager to enjoy the little things in life, like the short amount of time I would spend with her. Nevertheless, her joy taught me so much about my own life.
I've learned that even through the trials and difficulties I will face, God has called me as a believer to trust in Him. Placing my trust in Him and relying on Him, instead of the temporal things of this world, will lead His Spirit to grow fruit in me. One of the fruits of the Spirit, joy, will establish a place in my life when I learn to look past the hard times and set my eyes on the future God has for me, a future full of goodness and a place in eternity encompassed by His presence. Happiness relies only on the good times, but joy comes when my faith is completely placed in Jesus, knowing that no matter what happens, God is with me, He is for me, and the victory is in His hands! Joy isn't dependent on circumstance but on the never-changing character of God, whose goodness and love will never fail. Like Lucy, the trials of life may seem to increase more and more, but when I look past the present and into the hope of the future, and the little things God blesses me with in the midst of pain and trial, there is still reason to smile. There's hope in Jesus Christ, and that hope will continue to stay until its fulfillment in the Lord's second coming, when death will be defeated once and for all and the victory will be won forever.
No matter what, I've learned to keep running the race of life, with an eternal perspective and a heart focused on God's love, and He will use my present circumstances to change me, to produce perseverance and a joy that will allow me to get through whatever I'm facing. Like Lucy, I must run after the prize, the prize of eternity with Jesus as I focus on the work of the Kingdom, rather than the world's.
Recently, I have found out that Lucy has been adopted. Her hopes have turned into reality, as I picture her in a soft dog bed with a smile that could light up the world. Her adoption is a reminder of my adoption into God's family, and the hope I now have as I set my eyes on Jesus and remain in pure joy no matter what I face.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24