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Impossible Joy

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Sing it with me!

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where?”

“The joy of the Lord is my strength!!” Clap Clap

“This is the day! This is the day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Can you hear the bouncy tunes in your mind? Do they conjure up memories of Sunday School days gone by? Do they remind you of a simpler, easier, happier time of your life?

It’s hard to hum these songs when your heart is heavy with loss. Singing about joy seems impossible when misery is your closest companion. How do you rejoice in a day that is filled with monotony and stress?

Joy? Cheer? Delight? Surely these proclamations must only be for children or those adults with extremely easy (and wealthy) lives. Yet we can’t escape the extremely straightforward commands in Scripture to rejoice and to do it always! (Phil. 4:4)

Could it be that joy is more than a reaction to the circumstances surrounding us on a given day or season? Could it be that joy might be an act of faith?

A simple online search returns dozens of verses including the seemingly contradictory words: joy and suffering. At first glance, it makes no sense. If my son cuts his finger and runs to me, bleeding, I offer comfort and a bandaid. I don’t encourage him to rejoice in his pain – to realize that something good will come from the slice in his thumb.

We can’t overlook the fact, however, that in this silly illustration, my son ran to me. His faith in my mothering skills gave him the confidence to give me his problem and to let me care for him. His heart found joy in the capability of his mother.

The bridge between suffering and rejoicing has to be faith. Our joy remains constant, not because of what each day holds, but because of our trust in the One who holds our days.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Faith in His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His compassion – faith in His character not mine – will result in a joy that testifies to those around me that I trust in something bigger than my circumstances.

True joy without faith in the Giver of everything good is virtually impossible.

I am both convicted and comforted by the words of the Puritan minister, Samuel Ward in Sermons,

Live by faith. Rejoice through faith in the Lord. It is the neglect of this exercise that will allow discouragement to erupt, and Satan to interrupt your happiness and spiritual cheerfulness. It will cast you in to the dumps and into mourning……Keep your faith, and it will keep your joy…..Show me your faith by your joy. Use your faith, and have joy; increase your faith and increase your joy.

 

The Weight of Waiting

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Six days felt like sixty.

He left on a Sunday afternoon for a Greek exegesis class as a part of his D.Min prep and returned on Saturday after lunch. Compared to what military wives and single moms endure it was really nothing. That didn’t stop me from complaining though. I don’t sleep well when he’s gone which made even the nighttime hours crawl. The entire week held plenty of meltdowns and early bedtimes (mine included).

It wasn’t all bad. I attempted some fun activities to pass the time with the kids. We created salt dough safari animals and devoured chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. My kitchen duties were easier with one less adult in the house. On Wednesday, my friend must have noticed the extra bags under my eyes and offered to play with the kids for a couple hours while I worked on a writing project.

Such is the nature of waiting. We bemoan the slow moving hands of time while begging for the delay of the sweet seconds in between.

I started a personal study of Philippians while my husband was away. Paul penned this book as he suffered imprisonment in Rome. Near the beginning of his letter we find a verse so familiar that I almost immediately begin humming along.

….being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus….

(Did the tune pop into your head too?)

We love the idea of God’s working in our waiting. We want to know the purpose in our pain. We can’t wait to see the masterpiece He creates from the rubble of our life. It’s as if our lives are ugly fixer-uppers in need of a fantastic flip. We anticipate the final reveal of the before and after pictures.

It’s true, of course, that He is working in thousands of unseen ways. He is weaving interactions and choices into a breath-taking tapestry of grace. But this time the words, “until the day of Christ Jesus” jumped off the page and settled into my heart.

I am not guaranteed a glimpse of the completed product that is my life until Jesus returns. Unfortunately, I want quick results and easy fixes. I want to be done with waiting.

The chapter continues…

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

This is the good work that He is accomplishing in me – a holiness that comes from abiding in the Vine and a purity that comes from resting in His work not mine.

There’s no denying that waiting is hard, but if we inspect the endless moments more closely, we may find growth and maturity sprouting in unexpected places. We discover a harvest of righteous fruit and abounding love that could not have survived in the soil of haste.

So we wait knowing that He is faithful and will not break His promises to us.

We wait while looking for His good work in the monotony and mundane of life.

And we wait confident that He will return in power very soon.

The delay will seem as only a “momentary affliction” compared to the eternal glory that awaits us in His presence.

I can’t wait!

When the New Year Doesn’t Seem “New”

I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve.

I was still exhausted from the stomach bug that had hit our family early on our vacation and knew I needed some rest before church the next morning.
I easily fell into a deep sleep and didn’t even hear the celebratory fireworks across the street.

When I woke up on January 1, I was struck with a feeling of familiarity. My two year old still needed me to rescue her from the pack ‘n play. I still needed to iron wrinkled Sunday clothes. My sons still needed a referee for their early morning conflicts. My circumstances hadn’t changed with the calendar.

We often equate the new year with a fresh start, but in reality it’s rarely a clean slate. Instead  we experience a continuation of lessons, struggles, and triumphs experienced in the old year. Your body still feels the same pain. Your heart still feels the heavy weight of loss. Your mind is still plagued with doubt and worry.

The road will advance through the next 12 months most likely including several unplanned detours. Thankfully, God’s character does not reset with a new year and He will not be surprised at what each day holds. Each bend in the path will force us to depend on His faithfulness in a deeper way.

After all, the route unknown to us begins and ends with Him!

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Some great new year reading:

Feeling stuck? Read this post from Lore Ferguson.

Help with a Bible reading plan for this year.

Started a 2017 diet? 3 Truths about Body Image.