Joy Is the Bonfire of Our Brokenness


November 24, 2021

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.


18 yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . . yet. . .

Now to the rest of the song of Valley #18. Only 15 words all told:

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Like most people I know, the internet often leads me to read a thousand miles wide and a millimeter deep. Instead of digging deeper wells, I find myself foraging broadly. Both have their strengths and weaknesses I suppose. I find myself reading a lot of people I disagree with a lot yet remain appreciative of their minds and influence. A few years back, along the path of Descent #17, I read a bit by Chip Conley who said this:

Suffering — meaning = despair.

I did some reverse math and came up with this one:

Suffering + meaning = joy.

On the path of Descent #17 we want to know why. What’s the reason for all of this suffering? What is God trying to teach me? We can spend years trying to ferret out the meaning of trials, tests, and tribulations. 

This past summer I was listening to a podcast from Jordan Peterson when he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “It seems to me that the purpose of life is to find a mode of being that is so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.” The minute I read it I knew what he was talking about: Joy. 

I believe this is the purpose of life and the mode of being he speaks of:

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The song of Valley #18 tells of a purpose of life and a mode of being that is so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant. It causes me to rethink my reframed equation above.

It is not Suffering — Meaning = Despair.
It is not Suffering + Meaning = Joy.
No, it is Suffering — Joy = Despair.
Finally, it is Suffering + Joy = Meaning. 

I want to share a lengthy quote from the late Thomas R. Kelly, who wrote, A Testament of Devotion, a book profoundly shaping my faith to the present day. Some things you read you never get over. This is that for me. 

The last fruit of holy obedience is the simplicity of the trusting child, the simplicity of the children of God. It is the simplicity which lies beyond complexity. It is the naïveté which is the yonder side of sophistication. It is the beginning of spiritual maturity, which comes after the awkward age of religious busyness for the Kingdom of God—yet how many are caught, and arrested in development, within this adolescent development of the soul’s growth! The mark of this simplified life is radiant joy. It lives in the Fellowship of the Transfigured Face. Knowing sorrow to the depths it does not agonize and fret and strain, but in serene, unhurried calm it walks in time with the joy and assurance of Eternity. Knowing fully the complexity of men’s problems it cuts through to the Love of God and ever cleaves to Him. Like the mercy of Shakespeare, ’tis mightiest in the mightiest.’ But it binds all obedient souls together in the fellowship of humility and simple adoration of Him who is all in all.” 

Now, go back and read that again, slowly and with feeling this time. That feels like fireworks in my soul. As you can see, far from shooting fireworks, we are starting to build a fire here in Valley #18. We are laying down the broken limbs of our lives, all the sticks strewn down the mountainside of Descent #17. They have only one useful purpose now: to burn for the glory of God. It will be a glorious bonfire before we are done. Joy is that bonfire of brokenness revealing the blessed beauty of the ONE on fire but not consumed—Jesus—who became like us so we could become like him. 

To be continued. . . 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)


Father, lead me into the simplicity of the trusting child. So many praying here have had this stolen from them somewhere along the way. YET, You are the ONE who restores our capacity to trust. We want to come to this place, this way of faith where life is so meaningful that the fact of our suffering becomes strangely irrelevant. Thank you Jesus, for taking us deep into your heart for us and for the world and for your holy ambition to make us as your heart is for the world. Holy Spirit, bring us to the bonfire of our brokenness that we might revel in Joy at the blessed beauty you are making of it. For your namesake, Jesus, Amen.  


Are you discovering the joy of Jesus— that mode of being that is so meaningful it renders suffering irrelevant? Would you like to find this kind of joy? It is closer than you may think. 


We are getting the Sower Nation together to set the tone and share an entry into Advent. December 2, 6:30 CST, via LiveStream. Jesus will be both our hospitable host and honored guest. It will be filled with the joy of the Lord, with songs, poems, preaching and prophecy. Learn more and register here. You will be our special guests. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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