I’m not in a position the world would find joyful. In 2011, I set myself and wife on a journey based on what I felt the Lord leading us to do: first, to move ourselves from our comfortable middle-class existences in Southern California back to the State of Delaware where I was raised; second, to write a novel. We traveled cross-country in Summer 2012 with thoughts of getting work and our own home within nine months of our arrival to the East Coast. All the while, I was hard at work on my debut novel, Stronghold, which I released in May of 2013.

Though it took two years to accomplish, I thought we had done exactly as the Lord had asked and that he had “big plans” for us here.

But God’s ways are not our ways, and our expectations do not always align with reality. We had trouble finding work, and car repairs ate into our savings. We still have not found a church to which we’d like to anchor, and our social dynamics are complicated. To top things, we are still living with my parents in the home in which I was raised (a hard pill to swallow for any man when he awakens in the morning). Our lives here have not materialized as we had hoped.

And yet, in all of this I’ve received something else that I had forgotten to expect (or expected as an afterthought). The hard nights of budgeting, discussing next steps, and simply existing with disappointments have brought me low—lower than I tend to communicate. But I’ve also experienced a joy I cannot wholly describe—a certain satisfaction that only comes in the darkness.

I have come to know God himself, to see his character as I cling to His Word for hope, to see his wisdom in answering prayers as he chooses. I have come to value God alone as my portion, because some days, I feel that I have nothing else—nothing left to give and no ability to obtain more. I simply exist before him as vulnerable as I ever have, and in that, I have tasted joy immeasurably.

And I’ve learned the place from where contentment truly comes, not in success or wealth or location, but in being welcome before God’s throne and knowing he sits high and lifted on it, doing as he pleases. Doubts, fears, and insecurities flee from your heart before that throne. They have no business there, and they know you will not tolerate their presence in that place.

So I have learned to live there, daily. And my anxieties stay at a distance, and I am filled with not only contentment but joy—and coupled with that joy is hope–an earnest hope–that God is working in ways we do not see and accomplishing things we cannot imagine. We may never be a part of “big plans” as the world sees them, but we are securely standing on a grand stage of eternal significance. God gives us that knowledge in himself when we look to him for all and consider everything else a bonus.

If someone were to ask me today if God led us to do what we did, I would tell them the truth: at the time, I thought he did; I still want to believe he did. If he did, he is doing things we cannot see even as struggle day by day—in fact, our perseverance itself may be his working. But if he did not, then he has mercifully drawn us closer to himself despite our actions. Either way, he is still God, and he is still good.

And I take great joy in that reality.