Because so much time has passed since I've written anything more than a grocery list, I wondered whether I should bother to revive this old blog. Well, I think I'm supposed to give it another go -- so here 'tis.
A friend of mine has been going through a really challenging time financially. We had an opportunity to talk briefly last week. I told her that the Lord has been teaching me about choosing joy. She asked me to email her and remind her of our conversation so she could see it, read it, study it. This morning, I emailed her the following.
In Nehemiah, when the people had not had access to the Word of God for many years and heard it again for the first time, they wept. Nehemiah told them to dry their tears and to rejoice, that "the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) Our strength is not in our ability to do it by ourselves, but in His joy.
Joy seems to be connected to praise and thanksgiving. It's not ignoring the circumstances of one's life, but is putting the circumstances of one's life into the hands of the One who loves us infinitely more than we can imagine. That's why in the book of Habakkuk the writer says, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) In the midst of those dire circumstances (everything in his life was falling apart and the future looked bleak -- no buds means no crops means nothing for the next season), the writer chose to rejoice.
Joy seems to be connected to singing, as evidenced throughout the Psalms. Fill your home and car with praise music. Let the truth of His Word in those songs permeate every fiber of your being. A great song to start with is Matt Redman's "Blessed Be Your Name." If you're not familiar with it, here's a link to it with the lyrics on the screen . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL3NFhmxQxs
Begin to thank Him for the things you DO have, even the things that seem small or insignificant. Almost every time I'm in the shower, I thank Him for clean water. I've taken many a shower in third-world countries with my eyes shut and my back to the shower head, praying that none of the contaminated water would get in my eyes or mouth. It's easy to take clean water for granted, but so much of the world doesn't have it and so many babies die every day because of polluted water. Thank Him for eyes to see, ears to hear. Thank Him for the gift of music, for the beauty of His creation, for friends, for family.
In James, we're told to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials because the testing of our faith develops perserverance (James 1:2-4). The trials we encounter are not to punish us, but to draw us closer to Him. He is much more concerned about our character than our having comfortable circumstances.
In Romans 12:12, Paul says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Pretty simple formula!
The final thing we talked about, my friend, is living for today. We got interrupted before we finished this. What the Lord has been teaching me about this is: to live in the past is to live in regret; to live in the future is to live in fear. Both of those emotions -- regret and fear -- are the playground of the Enemy who wants our minds off of the Holy One. Living in today means we have a continual awareness of His presence, His joy, His provision.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is evidence of His work in our lives.
I am continuing to pray for you and your family. I pray that God will reveal Himself to you in ways you never imagined and will meet your every need.