Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Practice of Joy: learning to embrace trials

I'm on a joy journey. I'm hunting down glimpses of joy this year, gifts left by my Father on this road of life. Sometimes it feels easy. The sun shines and it's a big-hat kind of day full of joy abounding in every corner. Other days, I droop. I have to really dig to unearth joy and find it's meaning, claim it for my own.

Yesterday I was sick. Stuck in bed with a bad head cold. I get sick about twice a year - maybe. I was annoyed. I have a crazy-busy week ahead full of kids and plans and selling Haitian jewelry. The bottom line is: I don't have time to be sick. But whenever I'm sick I'm forced to pause. Pray. Think. Press reset on my plans.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have a joyful heart. One of our pastors shared a message a few weeks ago about the "joyful heart." He brought up some good points, challenged me with some questions I need to keep asking myself.

"What are you allowing to rob your joy?" he asked.

The first thing that pops into my head is the mountain of laundry on my couch. Kids who disobey repeatedly. The papers piling on my desk. A to-do list that is never finished. Do I really allow these things to steal my joy? Am I robbed by the very things that could be seen as gifts? Is my joy so weakly rooted in a day's circumstances?

I dig deeper. What really plows down my joy? Arguments over petty things with my husband. A harsher word than I intended to deliver to my child. Dear friends who might have to move because of an ugly job situation. Miscommunication across cultural lines as we reach out to friends in Haiti. Contemplating the world's evils like sex trafficking, child abuse, orphan situation. My joy is slammed by sin.

Pastor Josh reminded me that I need to remember this:

**I am loved by Jesus and forgiven through the Cross.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

**God is in control. He is with me and I have hope for the future.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

These truths pierce me. Set me straight. We have access to a kind of chocolate-truffle-from-God kind of joy.

The first heart exercise I need to do is to ask God to give me His perspective on my circumstances.

2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
Or written another way...

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.


How can this be? Trials are related to joy? Challenges should be considered a gift? It seems to be a message resonating from so many lips. Monday night we sit in class - a college course on world missions - and I hear the message again. "We need adversity in order to see the glory of God."

I know in my most human of hearts, my most American DNA, I do not want to step into adversity. I would rather run. Yet I know I will chase headlong into the difficult if it means uncovering more of His glory.

I'm changing my lens - realizing that joy walks hand in hand with pain.

And when I look pain in the face I have a choice. I can wince. I can complain. Or I can count. I can count the glimpses of joy, the gifts that my Father has given me. I can weep with my sister who is hurting and find joy on the other end.

This month I have tasted chocolate-dipped strawberries. I have kissed baby's dimpled knees. I have strolled beneath the pink canopy of blooms. I have dreamed the future with my husband-lover. I have allowed the comfort of His words to seep in deep. I know joy in quiet moments, small gifts.

This practice of counting, naming joys may seem too simple. Making lists doesn't get us into heaven. What I have found is that writing down the gifts found in the everyday leads me on a path back to my Creator. He is the one who sacrificed His son on the cross to cover my sins. That is a free gift wrapped in grace. No amount of lists or mustering up "happy thoughts" for a moment can pay Him back. He knows adversity. He invites me to a table full of wine-pain and bread-joy.

He blesses us daily so that we might be a blessing to others.

I am humbled again, remembering this:
Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

1 comment:

John McCabe said...

Hi, I was surfing the web and came across your blog. Seems you have a very interesting live going on. Given your interest in Haiti and family life, I thought you might be interested in a fund raiser our family put together. We’ve published a book on family travel and are donating all proceeds we receive to a Haitian Charity. Take a look at the excerpt and see if you like it.

Guess When I’ll Puke

John and Helene McCabe