Finding God’s Joy
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Age is a funny thing. My perceptions and understandings of life, of time and of what really matters evolve and change as I evolve and change. I knew everything in my 20’s. Now I feel the more I know, the less I understand (thank you Don Henley!). Yet through it all, one thing has remained constant in my life: faith.
I don’t know how people do life without a walk with God. It’s a hard journey with so many uphill battles, deep wounds and the carrying of many heavy weights. The constant juggling, striving and straining, or worse, the fight to insulate oneself from any of the “uncomfortableness” that is the world and its realities is exhausting and/or limiting. Even as a believer, I still have to wrestle through my fears and limitations to stay centered with my God, to stay in tune and in step with Him. As much as I experience His deep peace and contentment and joy, I don’t do so perfectly. It is a constant process, a constant surrendering of my will for His, a surrendering of the need to always know. It is a worthwhile process to be sure, but a process nevertheless.
Far from feeling morose, this wrestling process has brought me deep joy. By getting downright messy with God, laying all my fears, insecurities and weaknesses before Him, I have found something miraculous: God will always pick up my burdens and carry them for me. Always. It’s amazing, really. I can leave a prayer time with God where tears were shed, my deepest, darkest fears were exposed, and a scary reality has been laid out before Him, and yet walk away lighter, more joyful, more hopeful. It’s not that my circumstances have necessarily changed. Often they haven’t. It’s that I can sense the Holy Spirit showing up, I can feel God’s presence enveloping me with protection and peace, and I walk away with the confidence of knowing the Creator of the Universe is by my side actively working for me.
As we enter a new year (geez, they seem to fly by more quickly!), there’s 2 things I’d like to briefly encourage you with. First, your prayers matter to God. They truly do! In Revelation we are painted a scene of heaven. God is on His throne and Jesus stands before Him, worthy and able to free us. Yet what always touches me deeply is the description of God’s throne room, for before God at all times is a fragrant incense, described in Rev. 5:8 as the prayers of God’s holy people. Do you realize that because of Jesus, both you and I are considered holy? That our prayers go before the Father’s throne? It’s not just the Mother Theresa’s of the world that He listens to. It’s us. It’s you. God listens intently to you. Make the time to pray and lay your heart out before Him regularly. You will experience a difference over time because He loves you deeply.
That leads to the very important second point–you are valuable and precious in God’s sight. He truly loves you! Is He very aware of your flaws, your failings, your doubts? Yes. But He loves you anyway, and He loves you too much to leave you stuck and unfulfilled. There are too many scriptures to even list that testify to us again and again how valuable we are to our Creator, but I’ll give you one: “… I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19). When you’re feeling fearful, inadequate, weak, unworthy, or over your head this year, remember that God has overcome the world, and His perfect love drives out fear (John 16:33; 1 John 4:18). Walk in the confidence of knowing you deeply matter, and give that love in abundance back to God and to others. Your life will be richer for it.
For Further Thought: Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:29-30, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely, lightly.” Make 2018 the year you decide to keep company with Jesus. Think through what that might look like on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis. Add that unforced rhythm to your life so you, too, can experience greater freedom and lightness of heart. Happy 2018!
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