Kay Warren asked at the end of Chapter 1, "What do you allow to hold you back from living a life of joy?" I thought about the question for a moment and wrote, "Circumstances and even possible circumstances...fear of 'what if?' and what other people in my life say or do or (get this) what they don't say or do." In Galatians Paul asks: "What has happened to all your joy?" Think about this question for a moment and who is asking it...Paul, who had all kinds of very UNJOYFUL things happen to him! If anyone had multiple reasons to have a complete lack of joy...it was this man. And yet, it is this man, who admitted to having a "thorn in the flesh," who poses the question to us. I think this was brilliant of God!
So, I simply repeat Paul's question to you, girls..."What has happened to all your joy?" Angela Thomas in her devotional "Choosing Joy" asks the question this way: What is distracting you from joy? She mentions that the Galatians were distracted by their obsession with keeping the laws. This is for sure: In my life, it is not "rule-keeping" that is the distraction...nothing as "noble sounding" as that. Instead for me it is STUFF...all kinds of stuff. Like the house next door that is in disrepair...to say it distracts me from joy is an understatement. Angela asks her reader to quickly write down five things that are a distraction to the joy in their life...I wrote "the house next door" twice. Once in the beginning of the list and once at the end. My own personal MEGA joy-sucker right next door!
I can't wait for life to "calm down" or "work itself out" or any of those other platitudes that give me permission to sit in a joyless place. Life is slipping by at lightning speed, if I keep waiting for life circumstances worthy of joy, I will waste it...this precious life given to me on joyless moments that turn into joyless days and even joyless months and years for some of us. Angela says beautifully the truth in my heart and, most likely, my dear sisters, in yours as well:
"I want His joy! To pursue his joy. to be filled with joy. To respond and react in joy. To discover joy in my regular, old life. To give joy and multiply joy in the lives of my children. To teach about joy. To serve with greater joy. To love from a deep well of joy."
I realized this week that one huge obstacle to God releasing joy in my life is discontentment. I am not content where I am. And that, my friends, I know is sin. My continual mind-set of "wanting to get out" of where God has me is completely distracting me from the joy God has ready to pour out.
This week I was in a friends office and I saw in her bookshelves copies of the 70s Bibles Reach Out and The Way. Anybody who came to know Jesus during the "Jesus Movement" of the 70s knows the Bibles I am talking about...
I know...pretty awesomely boss and cool:) Seeing those Bibles took me right back to my 15 year old, newly come to Jesus self. I can't help but smile as I type...I recently got my "The Way" back. I had no idea what had happened to it over the past 40 years until a friend called and said, "I have something for you." l was completely surprised when she handed over that well-worn book. She told me I had given her the Bible after she had come to the Lord, and she had kept it all these years hoping someday to be give it back. There was a sweet joy holding this dear book once again in my hands. In those days, I was OBNOXIOUSLY joyful about Jesus and His Word ("I LOVE JESUS!!!! is written on the outside edge of the pages:) You cannot manufacture this kind of joy. At fifteen I was living in an 1100 square foot house with my family of seven. I worked in the family firewood business (which at 15 was no longer as fun and cool as it was when I was 9). We drove around in a beat-up station wagon, clothes were bought at the thrift stores (decidedly NOT cool in the 70s) and ate whatever we could buy in bulk for a large family on a tight budget. My circumstances were not exceptional but my joy back then was...it was the "pressed down, overflowing, running into your lap, over the top" kind of joy!
Since that day in my friend's office, the words from a song...one of David's songs...keep ringing through my head: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me...Restore unto me the Joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me."
I cannot make myself joyful. I cannot "wish" it back into my heart, but I can ask God to restore it. I can ask God to "renew a right spirit within me" so that joy can reside there once again...the real kind of joy. I am still praying for things to change next door, but more than that, I am praying for God to restore in me the joy of the salvation He has given through His Son, so when good happens in my life, it simply ADDS to my already abundant JOY! I know that joy is not dependent on circumstances...the fifteen year old Cherri knows that very well!
Joy to you, my friends!!!!