I’ve been learning a lot about joy this year.
I’ve always known that joy was a gift that God gave to me. I have always been a pretty upbeat, optimistic person. But I guess I never really truly considered the responsibility and dedication that also needs to coincide with a natural tendency.
Have you ever heard the saying that our greatest gifts can also become our greatest weaknesses?
Joy is contagious. Even in the depths of despair there is something about a joyful person that lifts us up out of the ashes. Even in scripture we are told that the “joy of the Lord” is our strength. On the flip side, a negative person can instantly effect an entire room and bring everyone down with them. I disregarded the opportunity that I had to choose joy, and actually brought a lot of destruction and hurt down around me because of my careless, foolish and selfish behaviour.
The past couple of months have been really hard for me. If you’ve been following my blog, you know some of the obstacles that have come up and the challenges that I’ve been facing. None of the issues that I have had have been issues of a global proportion, but I would say that through the choices I made, I allowed these problems to shatter my world.
After arriving at my new home, only a couple weeks after returning from an amazing experience in Africa, I was full of anticipation and excitement for what the future would hold. I was energized and prepared to do whatever needed to happen to put my life into order.
However, job hunting proved to be rejection after rejection and failure after failure. My vehicle would break down and need to be taken for scrap, and I found myself growing weary and my heart becoming more and more like stone. As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, my optimism and zeal was a thing of the past. My energy, excitement and motivation had been replaced by utter despair, disappointment and frustration. This doesn’t just happen, it’s a choice. We either choose to perservere or we choose to despair.
I chose despair.
All the truths that I have grown to know about God were still true. But I despised those truths. Instead of rejoicing in an opportunity for character and spiritual growth, I was consumed by resentment about God’s faithfulness. Instead of encouraging me to perservere, I was incensed and enraged. Statements such as “I’m tired of you having to be faithful”, “I am tired of learning these lessons” were common in my thoughts and even in the few prayers that I so kindly offered up to the loving God who thought so much of me that He was willing to die for me. Even as I write these words, I am so ashamed. How incredibly self-righteous and pretentious of me. How.. human of me. And God being God… was patient, forgiving and He listened to every ungrateful word that I screamed, maliciously thought or grumbled at Him.
Despite my conditional feelings towards Him, He remained as true as He always has. He remained my Provider, and my Caregiver, and my Counsellor, and my Father. In the midst of what I viewed as a financial crisis, there seemed to somehow be just enough, or something would come up and I would realize there were just enough funds for another day, or just to cover the next upcoming deadline.But more than that, what God knew was how desperately I needed to be home. Through a series of seemingly random, yet perfect events I arrived back in Saskatoon on Friday, October 5th. I was exhausted, burnt out and a pretty angry version of myself.
God began the renovations immediately. I went back to church on Sunday to discover that instead of hearing a sermon, we would hear three incredible stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of three different families from Ebenezer.
At the end of the service. I didn’t know what to feel. The Holy Spirit was doing something in me and I couldn’t quite put words to it, but all I knew was that I wanted to cry. I was so convicted by my selfish, limited view of God and so incredibly blessed, challenged, encouraged by and thankful for these amazing people who had walked through fire, hell and back. Despite their seemingly hopeless situations they refused to deny God’s faithfulness, unconditional love and provision and eternal kindness towards them. They had faced adversity, despair, and crisis and instead of choosing to allow the darkness to consume they chose Christ. They chose joy.
That’s when I realized that it wasn’t my situation that sucked, it was my attitude that needed to change.
Joy isn’t a feeling. Joy is a choice. Happiness is a feeling, it is fleeting and circumstantial. Joy is deep and abiding and it remains throughout the most darkest of times IF we choose it.
The funny thing too is that when we choose joy, the remarkable effect seems to be that happiness seems to return.
In the same way, hope is a choice. In the darkest moments of our lives, hope is what brings light to the truth. But make the choice to allow hopelessness to reside and it will consume us and eat us from the inside out.
A passage that I memorized eons ago has always stuck by me and I have repeated it in the darkest of times.
We REJOICE in our sufferings. HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT because God’s love goes with us by His Spirit, who walks with us through EVERY moment, every valley, every rejection and every uncertainty.
I can’t tell you that I now know what I am going to be doing. I can’t tell you that my situation has changed. What I can tell you is that there is a loving God who actually cares about every detail in my life, who listens to my every thought and every cry- even if I am insulting and ungrateful, and he even loves me just the same.
I don’t deserve any of this. I know that. I’ve never deserved it. Now, I couldn’t deserve his love, faithfulness, redemption or forgiveness any less. I wish I could say that from now on I will respond in eternal gratitude but I am ashamed to admit that I know I’m going to fall so very far from doing so.
For now, all I can do is share this story of His faithfulness and loving kindness and hope that doing so might spur some of you to break out of a similar mindset, and to meet face to face with the God who called you by name and raised you from the ashes to call you His child.
I know that some of you may not share my spiritual beliefs, and that’s fine. But I do hope and pray that you will choose joy over despair, that you will find that beautiful place of understanding that it’s your choice to make.
My story isn’t over, and you can be sure that there will be more to tell.
I don’t exactly know how to end this other than to point you to Hebrews Chapter 12. Yes, read the entire chapter. It’s good and it has spoken straight to my heart in the midst of my situation.
I have gone from being consumed and immersed in darkness to allowing God to consume me with His love.