Monday, July 28, 2014

For Joy

Joy. It often seems so elusive. Deeper than happiness, harder to obtain, but absolutely transformational if captured.

If it can even be captured.

Where do we find this thing, this joy that wraps itself around our lives. It doesn't stop the arrows life is often shooting in our direction, but it changes your response to them. But where do we find it? Because if the world is broken and messy and the arrows are sharp, the last thing I can do is just be happy. Where do we find joy in sadness, glory in pain?

Today I met a man named Dale. He broke my heart. He lives in a hotel on the meager provision of his disability checks and the money people hand him from their car window as they drive by his corner. His legs were amputated due to a flesh eating disease he got while fixing up an elderly woman's house for free. Where's the justice in that? He said some people are nice. But not all. He said people throw things at him sometimes.

How do I find joy knowing there is so much suffering? How does he find joy sitting in his wheelchair in the hot sun with a cardboard sign day after day? Because these moments aren't happy. I can't smile and make it all okay.

But then this morning I went for a bike ride and I just felt so light as I spun through a green park with the wind on my face, so filled with something far greater than happiness. A taste of what it means to truly be free. How can I have both emotions in one day, heartbreak rolling down my cheeks and a giddy glee that makes my heart sing?

It must be more than circumstances, this elusive thing called joy. It must be something that marks my life in the good and the bad, something deeper and stronger than a tear or a smile. 

I read this the other day, "God is using this season to say, 'Am I your joy?' John 15 talks about how following Him is really for His glory and our joy. The word joy really struck me, and I thought, I can't get that manufactured in other places, it needs to come from Him. Time with friends is good, and working out is good, and time with  my husband is good, but I have to find my joy in Him."

It has to come from Him.

Joy is this beautiful, pure, untarnished thing that can only be found in the Lord. "The joy of the Lord is our strength." It doesn't make the painful moments less painful, but it gives them more meaning. Because there is something greater, there is something deeper, there is something more glorious than this moment, this trial, this pain, this question.

Joy cannot be something that I experience when life is going my way. Happiness is an emotion, coming and going as the world ebbs and flows. Joy is the thing that changes the way you see the ebb and flow of life. It doesn't change with the seasons, it is the son always in the sky.

If God is not my joy, then I have no joy. For it is only found in the Lord. It's His love that promises to one day make everything right. It's me knowing that as I cry over the broken life of Dale, His tears flow too. Joy comes from me knowing that God's heart breaks for this messy world, and that He has already begun to make it right. He died to make it right. It hasn't been perfected yet, but it will. Oh it will. And in that I find joy, in the pain, in the smiles, in the anger, in the laughter, in the hurt, in the questions, there is joy.

"Am I your joy?"

This I must ask myself each day, as I seek and strive for a relationship with Jesus that is so changed by His love I can find joy every moment, no matter the season.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Psalm

I've been reading through the book of Psalms in the Bible recently and realized, I'm essentially reading someone's journal. David's poems were the prayers, praises and petitions to the Lord he wrote down, now there for us to see. They are powerful because they are raw and real, deeply honest and vulnerable. They speak to where David was at in moments of doubt, hope, desire, joy, heartbreak, failure, brokenness. They speak to us because we can identify with them. We understand his words of peace, lying down in green pastures and beside quiet waters, finding refuge in a God who is ever-present in times of trouble. We can identify with the moments when David cries, "Lord, where are you? Why are you silent?" We all have moments of doubt. Moments when (if we are really honest) we wonder if God is even there, or if He is, if He actually cares. The trouble is, we often aren't willing to vocalize those fears and questions because we aren't comfortable with the vulnerability, or not always having it all together. This is why David's words resonate with so many people in different stages of life and places of faith. Because it's David speaking to God exactly what is on his heart. With all of that in mind, I want to share a prayer/poem I wrote down recently as I sought the Lord in my brokenness and wrongdoing. 

I have been so self-centered
focused on me all day long
as if I'm God
as if my ways are right and just
Or, at least,
more important than anyone else's 

As if, 
I matter more
or my little world even 
matters at all
You know, the one where
I'm on the throne and
You give me glory
That world doesn't exist,
but I pretend it does
I live like it does
so often,
too often

Live for my comfort,
live for my fame,
ruled by my "right" to
"my rights"
as if they existed, when really
I surrendered my rights 
the moment I
surrendered to You

I'm trying to take them back
as if my will mattered
or my ways were
right and true
is from You alone
Self-righteousness, the burden 
on my back, take
this burden away
The sin I carry

I need you now
Direct my thoughts away
from me and my selfish ways
where I care more for
my comfort than
the people around me
Turn my face to You
Only there do I find rest
my peace is in You

And when my eyes are fixed
on the throne
Yours, not the one I 
try to construct
Then justice rolls down
mercy will I see
love, an outpouring
of the Love I've been shown
grace will I give, for
You gave it to me

And my world will shrink
never more to be seen
consumed by your
all-consuming, gracious sea

help me
help me be
like You