• Amanda Zwanziger

A Life Lesson from The Joy of Painting

Updated: Jun 8

Uncovering the joy in the disruptions of our lives


When I was a teenager my best friend and I got an incredible kick out of watching Bob Ross on The Joy of Painting. Aside from Sesame Street in our younger years, it might be the only show we ever watched on public television. There wasn’t an artistic bone in either of our bodies, so not sure what attracted us to it initially, other than this incredible liking we had to this soft-spoken man with a giant perm.

After school we would head to my house and plop down on my sofa with a bag of Doritos and a can of RC Cola and watch in intrigue as he started painting his curious blobs. Seemingly so directionless and sloppy at first, but eventually, his magic would unfold, and a striking landscape would come to life.

So many of God’s beautiful creations were captured by Bob. In just a matter of minutes, the world would come alive on his canvas. Bubbling streams, flower-filled prairies, and snowy-capped mountain ranges would erupt from his brushes. I can vividly remember the excitement we would feel as we watched him take, what we thought, were his final brush strokes. As the namesake would suggest, we found lots of joy in Bob’s perfect little paintings.

But inevitably, episode after episode, Bob would take us on an unexpected, uncomfortable journey. Just when we thought his masterpiece was complete, Bob would start dabbing his brush in the darkness on his pallet. And then suddenly, in the middle of the perfect little painting, Bob would begin painting the dark thick trunk of his “happy little tree”.

For most people, there was usually never a happy feeling when Bob started us down this journey. The abrupt move of his brush was always met with a gasp and a resounding “noooooo” as we watched him, in a single stroke, ruin the beauty he had created. Harsh. Dark. Ugly. The brown tree trunk of tragedy, seemingly out of place in the perfect image of life he had created.

The period of disappointment would last awhile. We didn’t understand why it was happening. We couldn’t envision what his still life would look like in the future. And we longed to have back the perfect picture of life that he had already created.

But as time would pass, that tree trunk would start to take on new form. Branches grew. Leaves spread. Flowers blossomed. And, as Bob would transform the life of that painting, it would begin to make sense again. The new landscape would suddenly become clear. The darkness had a purpose. Beauty was revealed from it.

Our lives operate in a similar way. Just when our lives take on the landscape that we have longed for something ugly will disrupt it. It might be self-inflicted or thrust upon you. It might be intentional or unforeseen. It come in the form of trial or a tragedy. Whatever shape its presented in, it casts a darkness in the landscape or our lives. An unexpected, uncomfortable journey full of grief, regret, sorrow, anger, worry, and disbelief. We ask ourselves why. We struggle to vision our lives beyond it. A period of disappointment in which we don’t fully understand.

Bob once famously said, “there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.” He was a very wise man. Our lives were never intended to be perfect landscapes. Accidents were intended to happen. Without them, our faith in our creator doesn’t grow. Our impact in this world doesn’t blossom. The transformation of our lives doesn’t take on the beauty or shape that it has always been intended to take.

It is hard to find happiness in the midst of the dark disruption and disappointment. But as that new life is slowly revealed, we can find joy in it again. As victories are celebrated. As triumphs are shared. As the lives of others are transformed. In due time, the new landscape of your life will begin to make sense again.

If you are going through darkness right now, I encourage you to try to look at the beautiful purpose that could be forming from it. I ask you to hold tight to the hope that your life is not being ruined, it’s just being recreated. And I pray that you believe in the promise that you will, once again, experience the joy of your life painting...and the eternal joy of God’s beautiful creation.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

#joy #purpose #transformation #trials #victories #tragedies #darkness #beauty #thejoyofpainting #bobross #theparalyzedmovement

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