In Search of the Elusive – Joy

Imagine – you’re getting married, but that morning your dad disowns you. You plan to drive to church, but he disappears with the car. So, you end up going in a dirty work van, sitting on the floor in the back. Yet you still wait for your dad outside the church, standing in the wind in your wedding dress and veil. You wait for him to walk you up the aisle. He never shows up…

Derek and I got married almost 36 years ago, but still I struggle to reconcile my wedding day with James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. But then I regain perspective yet again. Joy is a constant choice.

I walked up that aisle. I took a bold step. And, oh, the joy to see Derek there!

Photo by Jamie Coupaud on Unsplash

Where havoc is powerless…

Over the last year, I have watched some people wreck havoc on the lives of others. And the sad thing is these people sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. They count the suffering they inflict as unfortunate but acceptable.

And for us who have endured this havoc? It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these people have ruined God’s plan in our lives. It is easy to blame them for binding up God’s hands. But there is a verse that puts things back into perspective. God says, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ (Isaiah 46:10)

It is a definitive statement. What God wants in our lives will happen. No one can thwart it. We can stand strong.

Photo by Steffi Wacker: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-red-lighthouse-on-rocky-shore-3722772/

That other option…

Many times, my personal troubles refused to go away. No matter how creatively I tried to reduce their effects, they persisted. No matter how I tried to relegate them to emotionally ‘unimportant’, they kept resurfacing. So, I thought that maybe I should give up and accept them as my inevitable lot in life.

There was another option, however. Expose them. Tell God about them. But I didn’t want to. Maybe God would think less of me. Maybe he would reject me. But then it occurred to me – he already knew, because he knows everything about me. And he still loved me!

It was probably the most liberating moment in my relationship with him. I didn’t have to hide. I didn’t have to pretend. I could tell him all my troubles in detail, and God was interested – deeply.

Photo by Pixabay

The two halves to every promise

God knows how lost we feel in our dark times, so he calls out promises to guide us. Yet, when God gives a promise, like, “They have greatly oppressed my from my youth… but the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked,“* I tend to focus on the first half. I stay there, remembering the injustice and pain. I forget the second half of those verses.

God wants us to acknowledge our grief. He does. Yet it is essential to read on. For in every oppression God gives the freedom to move on. In every entanglement he cuts us free.

God’s promises always come in two halves. Our fear – his faithfulness. Our pain – his presence. Our confusion – his compass, leading us on.

* Psalm 129:2-4

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-jeans-3036405/

Always upward…

No matter which way someone holds a burning match, the flame always points upward.

No matter which way a tree may be unnaturally twisted, its new branches will reach upward.

And no matter how topsy-turvy our lives might seem, how out of control things might feel, we can always reach upward. For each of us can know that, “He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.” (Psalm 18:33) We can always focus up.

Photo by Pixabay: fire-match-macro-matches-39257 Photo by Jen Healy: green-leafed-tree-2542311

Broken light…

“You are the light of the world,”* Jesus says.
But I reply, “I’m not. Look at me. What good is a broken light?”
I point to myself, to the mess at my feet. I want to hide in the dark.
But he says, “You’re mine. Your wounds don’t define you. Please, be a light with me.”

And I learn that to shine, being me is just fine…

* Matthew 5:14

Going back…

Just recently I went back to visit a place where I experienced great pain. I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I would come away amazed. For, I learned that a place has nothing to do with pain – it is the person who caused that pain.

It was such a simple and obvious realization, yet it helped me narrow down my grief. For, grief has a way of taking over life, of putting a dark filter over our eyes, but grief is much more specific than a general sad fog. And I learned this because the place where I had been hurt was now beautiful and loved. It was cared for. A place where people lived in peace.

I am deeply thankful to God for this experience and wanted to share it with you. Maybe you too have found the same…

Photo by Lisa Luminaire on Unsplash

So why do I still cut myself down?

Many of us grew up being told, “You can be whatever you want to be!” But I have found that it isn’t quite true. I dreamed of becoming a ballerina, but instead I worked on a farm. Later, I wanted piano lessons… then to become a doctor. But none of these happened. Did I fail?

Over the years I have learned that God’s opinion of us never changes, whatever we accomplish. And he always loved us, whether we do important things or not, whether we are overweight or not, whether exhausted while caring for a crying baby or having a dream job. No matter what we do in life, or what we look like, he always considers us his beautiful children.

So why do I still cut myself down?

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Who are we?

I keep encountering messages out there, ones that offer us other identities. Knowing ones who try to pigeon-hole. Powerful ones who desire to re-create. Caring ones who say we can re-create ourselves. They speak often.

Over the last months I have been thinking much about who Jesus says we are – “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). He doesn’t demand of us different talents, looks, or position in life. He simply asks us to be who we are – a light. He reminds us to be unwavering and bold. For that is what light is.

And light is wonderful. It doesn’t change – it simply reveals. It enables freedom of choice as it shows up hidden things. It brings God great pleasure and glory.

photo by guilherme-stecanel on unsplash

Take courage!

Moving to another country isn’t easy. It means leaving the familiar. It means letting go of one identity and carving out another.

I experienced this when moving to England as a young wife. I didn’t understand the culture. Every person I met was new. And I wasn’t understood.

But as I walked the city of London in a daze, on every pub I passed, there was the same huge sign – “Take Courage”. Only later did I realise that Courage is a beer, but God used those two words to get me through.

God told a man called Paul, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”* Whatever our transitions, God will give us strength.

*Acts 23:11

Photo by Stacey Shintani on Flickr