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An Unlikely Road to Joy

Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding,
for her income is better than silver,
and her revenue better than gold.
Proverbs 3:13-14, NRSV  

One game I love to play when watching a show on TV is to figure out from the commercials who the creators target as their audience. You can usually figure out a general age and stage of life, the gender, the life-goals etc. of the target audience from paying attention to the commercials. However, while there are some things that mark us out into different categories, some things are universal. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a parent of a young family, a single retiree or recent college graduate for some messages. People want more money not less, more happiness not less, better health, better relationships and so on. We want satisfying, we want entertaining and we want our problems fixed, but (And you all knew there was a ‘but’ coming!) wisdom is rarely on the agenda.

Yet Proverbs encourage us, not just here but throughout the book, that wisdom and understanding are far more enriching than the goals we set for ourselves: targets for income, assets, stability and those things we think will make for a life of contentment. Wisdom is far more satisfying than wealth. Wisdom knows that we are not gods in control of our own destiny, for wisdom knows that situations can change through no fault of our own. Wisdom is well familiar with life’s ups and downs, joys and woes and realizes that what works in one situation may not work in another. Wisdom acknowledges that all life is from and dependent on God, and that we are His creatures.

Wisdom is not a ‘tool’ to be used, but the discernment that knows which of the many tools at our disposal are right to use in any given circumstance. Wisdom listens not just to words, but also to behavior; not just to rhetoric but also to character. Wisdom seeks to gain a full picture–even when it’s not the picture we want–and wisdom does what is the ‘next right thing’ even if that is the harder thing to do, for wisdom comes with listening closely to God.

And so, those who find wisdom find happiness because as they let God take the reins and abandon their need to make their lives what they want them to be and instead accept them for what they are. They find contentment and joy, for wisdom comes with acceptance of reality and trust that God will lead us through safely. Wisdom is not found in ‘quick fixes’ that TV commercials and pop-up ads promote, or even in the ‘goods’ of human existence. Wisdom knows they will lead us astray. Wisdom is found through the narrow path, the longer road that accepts hardships and trusts the One who loves us, and so discovers the road that leads to joy.
The Rev. Dr. Suse E. McBay
Associate for Adult Christian Education and Prayer Ministries
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