Tag Archives: joy

Authenticity and Joy

It’s the end of June, and I’m watching the rain come down outside my window. It’s grey and cloudy. Just like my month has been–grey and cloudy. Two more weeks, and my husband won’t have a job. (He does contract work though he does want permanent work.) I look at the rain and wonder what in the world God is trying to grow out of this. No money, nothing to give. All I have now is Jesus. Is that enough? God, will you accept just me? I have nothing to contribute to the church body. Do you love me for just me?

As I ask the question, it’s already answered. Jesus died on the cross for me. He didn’t wait for me to throw coins into the bowl beside the cross before He died for me. Giving myself to Him comes before everything else–even in the church. Keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus comes before anything else. This gives me a measure of comfort on this rainy day. I am so thankful that I count as God’s daughter first.

And, because I am God’s daughter first, I can handle what this life throws at me whether we stay here, move somewhere else. or even live on the street. God is using this time to grow me like the rain nourishing the earth.

Rain and tears–God has a point for both though is may not seem like it. I’ve been told that some people can’t handle being around other people’s pain because it reminds them too much of their own. But, we will have pain in this world, like it says in Scripture, and God has provided methods for us to express it. Maybe that is why I’m going through this pain. So, I will understand when others express their pain.

Because my heart wants authenticity  in my relationships. I have hidden things for so long, even in church relationships, that it’s hard for me to take the shields down. I’ve hidden bad things because I thought they were anathema to expressing my joy in my Lord and Savior. But, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive anymore. Joy and authenticity can exist in the same breath. Not from telling a sad person they shouldn’t be sad because of the joy God gives us. But from sitting with a sad person in the middle of their pain and living in the moment with them.

I didn’t think I had anything to write today, but God has surprised me once again. May we all be authentic and joyful with the people in our lives!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

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A Joy or a Chore (Beyond Our Walls)

I never envisioned someone using a baseball movie in the devotions from my church, but someone has done that this morning. Besides being involved at church, we are also a baseball family so it was a familiar metaphor. The devotion is entitled Field of Dreams, and it spoke of how people will come once something is built. Now, in the movie, the thing being built was a baseball field, but the devotion compared it to what we are hoping to build at church and what we need to be building in our own lives.

Something struck me about the movie metaphor. Playing and watching baseball games was depicted as going back to a time of childhood innocence, or joy, if you will.  And yes, childhood is generally a time of joy.

I thought of another time though that is usually a time of joy–when a person first becomes a believer. They are excited about what has happened to them, and they want to share it with everyone they come in contact with. Then, as time progresses, they lose that joy, and everything about their faith becomes more of a chore. What happened? Did they become weighed down with responsibility like the characters in the movie, like a lot of children do as they grow into adulthood? Did suffering and pain enter their lives?

There are as many answers as there are questions as to why someone loses their joy; the joy they felt when they first believed in God. I think some of that might be because of the definition of joy–“a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” When life has weighed people down with its burdens, it’s hard to remember what joy is and how to experience it. God gave us the other feelings too, and we have a hard time thinking that joy can co-exist with other emotions.

But, the joy of God is deeper than the joy of the world. He speaks of this in Scripture. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I especially liked some of the references from Psalms. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Another one was from Psalm 126:5. “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

We don’t do a good job of teaching this in the western church. People think they are supposed to be happy all the time in their faith, and when they aren’t, the joy leaves them. The practices of their faith become more of a chore, something to check off on a list.

Some would say this is innate, that joy comes from inside of a person, and while this is true, I believe we have our part in helping new believers to keep their joy in God. This can be done by helping them to develop the disciplines of prayer and Bible study which can also be helpful for older believers. Also, and this is the most important, we all need to walk with each other in community. Having the love and support of other believers in good times and in bad can help all of us as we seek to become closer to God and to have the joy in our faith that we had when we first became believers.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

It is Well with My Soul

It’s been almost a month since I wrote in this blog, and something big has happened since then. My husband has found full-time permanent work. We will not have to leave the city we have learned to call home over the last four years. We will not have to leave our friends, the people who have become our family. It is the first time in a long time that I have felt optimistic about our future.

The optimism though doesn’t come from anything my husband or I have done even though my husband was the one who got the job. It comes from our Lord and Savior who is the ultimate provider. I realized that God had to bring me to the point of saying, like the song, it is well with my soul, even if my husband didn’t get the job.  And I did. I knew that God would be with us no matter what. When I was able to say that, things came through, and it all happened.

God’s timetable is never the same as ours, and that is the main lesson he has been teaching me through all of this. I recalled one other thing last month. It had been a year since we had started praying for full-time permanent work for my husband. I had lost sight of that when he got the contract job and then with everything he and we had gone through while he had the job. When I remembered this, I began to connect the dots.

God has taught me so many lessons this year and has poured out so many blessings. He has given me a strong desire to cement my knowledge of the faith I claim which I will talk about more in the months to come. But, for now, I will finish with the words from the song “It is Well with My Soul”

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    • Refrain:
      It is well with my soul,
      It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Stealing Our Joy

For those of us who claim Christ, this is what Satan most likes to do. He likes to steal our joy and take us away from the peace that is ours through Jesus. It can be an easy thing to do when you are worn down by life as I have been for the last several weeks. It can be an even easier thing to do when you have a hard time letting people in to your heart as I do as well. I don’t know what the solution is. I’ve been told I write my way through the things I need to think about well so this is my attempt to do so.

It’s hard for me to let people in when I hurt. I feel like I should always show joy because of my faith. There is a person at my church who is a good example of showing joy even though her mother died recently. People flock to her and are there for her. I know that sounds like jealousy, and I don’t mean it that way. I guess I just have fear that people won’t be there for me, and I believe a lot of that comes from my upbringing. My upbringing that taught me I wasn’t a valuable person. My upbringing that says I deserve it when people say cruel words to me. My upbringing that won’t let me let go of fear even when Jesus says I should. I revert back to my old patterns when life overwhelms me as it has in the past month.

So, is there any solution or is this something I will work through for the rest of my life? I think the answer to both halves of this question are yes although the question itself sounds like one of the answers should be a no. The solution is to hang onto my relationship with Jesus Himself which I have, sometimes with a desperation  that surprises even me. God hears my prayers, and He is always there for me even when no one else is. Even when I feel alone. So, in that sense, I will work through these feelings for the rest of my life.

In the previous paragraph, I state the most obvious solution to how I need to handle Satan’s attempts to steal my joy–to hang on to God with all my might. But, there is something else God wants for me, and it is something I am the most fearful of because of the chance of rejection. God wants me to let people, regular human beings, into my heart and have relationships with them. He is waiting to use them to bring joy into my life and allow me to show His joy if I will only let Him. Wow, the last sentence just jumped off of my fingers without me even thinking about it! I guess I know what I need to work on now.  🙂

God’s blessings on you today!

 

 

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!