Friday, April 11, 2008
Joy eludes me; always has. Of all the words one could use to describe me--bubbly, gregarious, funny, grumpy, passionate, serious, --trust me, joyful wouldn't be one of them. It's not that I'm a sad or unhappy individual. I'm aware that joyfulness is not synonymous with happiness, but there is a countenance that seems to resonate with people who maintain a sense of joy. And that countenance, I'm sorry to say is not one that you'll always find when it's my face you view. Recently however one of the pastor's at chuch encouraged us to embark on a thirty day alphabetical worship journey. Our job, he instructed, is simply to ask God to give us a new word for who He is each day. So far God has given me: I AM: Able Believable Comforter Deliverer Enough Future Good Intentional J... You guessed it. Today I am on the letter J and God said, "Sarah, I am joy. I want to be your joy." And immediately I tried to think of other words."No, God, what about just or judge or..." Joy. God led me to read Psalm 51. Listen to the angst in David's plea "Restore unto me the joy of my salvation..." and I thought how joy is something that was lost for all mankind in the garden of Eden. And it is lost each time we allow sin to separate ourselves from God still today. David must have intimately known the portals of joy because he could have asked God to restore so many things--the freedom of his salvation, the forgiveness of his salvation, the peace of his salvation. Yet his request was for the restoration of the joy he once knew. I think I've always felt at a loss here because God's Word also says "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh. 8:10) It's one thing to be lacking in joy, but for me it's entirely different to be lacking in strength. Now strength is something I can't go without. So, I avoid the whole joy topic and focus on other more pertinent things like trust, obedience, peace. After all, peace is mentioned 251 times in the Bible and joy only 217 times. Surely God's more concerned with my peace then my joy. Yet here I am at the letter J and God says, "joy." "Okay, God, joy it is." There's this song our choir sings that goes: "maybe you can tell it by the smile on my face, I've got joy." And the guy that sings it always has one of those lopsided, messy hamburger, kinds of grins that tells you without question he most certainly does have joy. How do you get to that point? The point where life's circumstances--good or bad--don't remove the grin, not so much the one on your face, but the one in your heart? This morning what God showed me is that if I've got God, I've got joy because He is joy. God is joy and therefore He is the source of joy. As a follower of Christ, I've got it then. The question is where does it hide when the floors are screaming to be swept and supper is waiting to be made and my youngest son is crying and my oldest is talking, talking, talking? I Chr. 16:27 says "Splendor and majesty are before him, strength and joy in his dwelling place." Simply put, joy is in God's dwelling place. Joy in God's dwelling place. Well, He dwells in my heart. I am indwelt by His Spirit and Galatians 5:22 says that joy is also a fruit of the Spirit who resides within me. So, here I am, indwelt with the source of joy and yet it still eludes me. Perhaps the real issue here isn't that I don't have joy but that I don't allow myself to experience it because I'm too busy experiencing the life that is in front of me instead of The Life that is within me. The infamous tyrany of the urgent rings true in my life as a task oriented, slightly anal perfectionist. There is always more to be cleaned, finished, washed and planned for. But in those moments when I am quiet and still before God I'm usually able to regain the equilibrium that allows joy to flow freely. I think the joy for which David so ravenously hungered wasn't so much the lopsided grin that often characterizes a joyful individual on the outside, but more the internal flow of joy from God's Spirit. After all, he David did plead "take not thy Spirit from me." He must have desperately wanted the return of that central knowledge that God 's favor was upon him--that nothing, not even his great fall with Bathsheba could change God's love toward him. Is it possible that as a New Testament believer I take for granted my security in Christ? Could it be that I don't even stop often enough to consider the incredible ramifications of a God who insists He will never leave us nor forsake us? The very fact that He will never leave me means joy will never leave me. No matter what I face--death, illness, financial disaster, disobedient children, marriage problems, exhaustion--no matter what, God is present and He is able. I know that to be true because I have in fact faced all of those things and lived to see the goodness and faithfulness of God. He is able to accomplish every single thing I face and moreover, there is nothing, not one single thing I will ever face that hasn't first been filtered through THE source of joy--my loving heavenly Father. Perhaps joy doesn't so much elude me as I just don't stop long enough to choose to walk daily in the truth that I've got God and so, I've got joy. Here's to the letter "J" and the lopsided grin that comes from knowing the God who is joy. There is nothing, no one, no circumstance, nothing that can take Joy from me. It is there for eternity. May I walk in it. Lord, "You have filled my heart with greater joy" (Ps. 4:6) and I am so thankful for the security of knowing that in your dwelling place I have fullness of joy. Teach me to live aware of that truth daily. Amen.