The Discipline of Finding Joy

All too often, it is difficult for Christians to find joy in their lives although it is something that is commanded in Scripture for us to experience. I believe this is because people mistake joy for everything going right in their lives. As all of us know though, things do not always go right for us. It is even said in Scripture that we who believe will experience suffering.  An example of this is found in Romans 8:16-18.

“The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs-heirs of God and coheirs with Christ-seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

II Timothy 1:8 also says, “So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.”

And I Peter 3:17 says this, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

So, as you can see, the suffering part is well covered. What about joy then? How do we find that amidst the suffering? When I was reading my devotion earlier, it struck me that the ways I had thought about joy in the past were not the ways God wanted me to think about it. Finding joy in our lives has to be intentional. It has to be a discipline. If it’s not, we will go from circumstance to circumstance and miss out on many of the blessings God has planned for us since we will be mired in the suffering and not know how to get out of it.

God has provided ways to find joy though, and they’re all tied up in the ways we have a relationship with Him. It seems like that should have been obvious, but it wasn’t to me until I read each way spelled out.

The first way is to read Scripture. Reading and studying about God can help me find joy because it helps me to learn more and more about my Lord and Savior.

The second way is to sing. I know I should have realized this one. When I sing and listen to Christian music, my sense of peace and joy is overwhelming.

The next way is to give. I will be the first to admit this is one I struggle with. Sometimes, I give out of a sense of duty and obligation, but God doesn’t want us to do that. He wants us to have joy as we give.

Another way is to live in community as we walk with Christ and work for Christ. God doesn’t mean for any of us to walk alone. I believe this one is hard for western Christians because of our emphasis on individuality, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Meditating on God’s goodness, serving God, and just enjoying God as we worship are also ways to find joy. I never connected the ways we live in relationship to God to ways we can find joy in Him. But, I know now the next time I am in the pit and feel like joy is very distant from me, all I need to do is commune with my Lord and Savior, and my joy will come back. I invite you to join me.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

Giving Versus Valuing

Matthew 6:1-4

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But, when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Jesus was blunt and clear when he made these statements to the disciples. When we give to God’s work, we’re not supposed to do it for recognition. We’re supposed to give in secret so we can be rewarded by God in heaven. These are clear and simple statements, and as I have been the recipient of secret giving on more than one occasion, it is clear that this is an important practice to God. I had some questions though about how giving relates to the human need for recognition and value which I’m going to address in this post.

God created in all of us the need to feel valued. There’s nothing wrong or inherently evil with that desire. It’s what we do with it that’s evil. It’s what the Pharisees were doing with it that Jesus was addressing. Parading in front of others and saying, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at what I’m doing in God’s name!” is what is wrong, and it’s what the Pharisees were doing. Jesus was telling His disciples that there was a better way and that they needed to value what God thought about them above everything or everyone else.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that this should not be the case. What God thinks about what I do is always first and foremost in my mind! What about this need for recognition though? This need to feel valued? Before evil got a hold of it, it was good like everything else God has created. And we all have this desire. Even I, an introvert, have a need to feel recognized, to feel valued.

The answer, I believe, can be found in another desire God has created in us. And that desire is the desire for community. Especially a community of like-minded believers to walk through life with. The next question we should ask then is how do these two desires fit together. The desire to feel valued in what we do for God versus the desire for community. It comes from all of us valuing each other. In my belief, it comes down to all of us taking the time to say thank you, to say I love you, to say you have value in God’s kingdom. We shouldn’t just say this to people of influence either. As an example, in the church, we shouldn’t just say thank you to the pastor. We should say thank you to the person who fixes the coffee. We shouldn’t just thank the worship leader and worship team. We should thank the sound team in the back. We shouldn’t just thank the elders. We should thank the people who clean the toilets. I could go on with examples, but I think you get the idea.

If we, as a Christian community, could do this for all of the people around us, just imagine how much we could change our world in Jesus’ name.

God’s blessings on you today!

 

God is My Hiding Place

One of the many books I read as a young woman was the book entitled The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It was given to me by my grandmother who sensed I might be interested in what the author had to say. I was very much interested. The book, for those who haven’t read it, details ten Boom’s experiences hiding Jewish people in Holland during World War 2 and what happened to her and her family after they were caught by the Nazis.  At that time in my life, I was interested in anything regarding World War 2 so this book which also proclaimed this family’s Christian faith unabashedly was a book that had a tremendous impact on my life as a young woman of faith.

But, what I didn’t realize until now, was how the book related to the concept of God being my hiding place. Psalm 32:7 says this. “You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. you surround me with songs of victory.”  I’m still getting used to the idea of God being my refuge. Of being my refuge where I can say anything to Him, and I won’t be rejected. I’ve been rejected by the world. I’ve been rejected by people who say they are Christians. But I’ll never be rejected by God. He is my Savior! He is my Lord! And He is always there!

Spending time in His presence, hiding with Him to continue the analogy, gives me the courage, the strength, the capacity even, to be out in the world and love the people around me even when they don’t love me back.  That’s because I’m not loving them out of my own heart; I am loving them with Jesus in my heart. I’ll be the first to admit though I am not perfect with this all the time.  I’ve been frustrated, even fearful, with life lately. And this year is starting out to be an overwhelming year with all the change that’s ahead for my family. But I want Jesus to be a part of all that. I want Him to be a part of the celebration with my son graduating from high school and leaving for college.  I want to fill up my cup with so many memories that they are spilling out.  And I want His love to spill out from me too. So, when I am overwhelmed or when I am fearful, I will remember to go and hide with my Lord and Savior and let His love fill me up.

God’s blessings on you today!

Showing Weakness

I have some more thoughts to tag on to my post from last week, Beauty in the Broken. Showing weakness is not an easy thing for me, especially in church. There are many reasons for this, but I think I can boil them down to a manageable number.

First, there’s a trust factor. I need to be able to trust that my weakness won’t be used to take advantage of me. Since I have experienced rejection in the past, this is especially hard. I need to let go and let God protect my heart because there is no way I can protect it myself.

Second, some people need to know every detail of my weakness. Sometimes though, I don’t want to share every detail. I would like to be able to ask someone for prayer, and have them sit beside me, put their arm around me, and pray for me without knowing all the details.

I also think people are uncomfortable around people who show weakness in church. Tears are not an easy thing to see, and a lot of people don’t like to show tears, or, if they do, they apologize profusely. That’s wrong. It should be okay to cry in church, but sometimes it’s not. I am reminded of John 11:35 which says, “Jesus wept.” He had heard that His friend Lazarus had died and had come to see Mary and Martha to comfort them. Jesus knew what was going to happen next, but He was still fully human, and He grieved the loss of His friend. If Jesus wept, why is it not okay that we weep?

And finally, I think my struggle with showing weakness in church is because I don’t like to be vulnerable. I don’t think any of us do. However, our real and authentic selves are how God made us, and He wants us to show them to other people. This has been a struggle of mine for a long time, but I’ve realized something. God made me–the woman who is a geek. God made me–the woman who likes to read and write military science fiction. God made me–the woman who likes superheroes. God made me–the woman who pours out her thoughts out on paper and on the screen. God made me–the woman who loves Him passionately and desperately wants to show her authentic self to others even when she is weak. My prayer is that we all can look to our right and look to our left in church, and if someone is showing weakness, we can show compassion to them.

God’s blessings on you today!