How to Seek Joy in the Morning
- Trillia Newbell trillianewbell.com
- 2016 21 Sep
Dark, thunderous clouds fill the sky. Even the slightest glimpse of sunshine is quenched by the cumulonimbus. You take a step of faith and walk outside. Big balls of frozen ice begin to fall, hitting you one by one. It hurts. It doesn’t make sense.
Keep walking . . .
The dark clouds seem to close in around you. Each step is harder and more treacherous.
Keep walking . . .
The further you walk, the harder it gets. “This plodding is so rot with pain,” you mumble as you look ahead. There in the distance is a ray of sunlight. You remember that beautiful inheritance. You know it’s coming.
Keep walking . . .
It’s an act of valiant faith to put one foot in front of the other,
Keep walking . . .
You’re going to make it to the end. Weak. Tired. But hopeful, because of that little ray, that faint but sure ray.
And when you get there you’ll realize, he has always been there.
That scene above is a familiar theme of my short life. Trial after trial, the Lord reminds me of his faithfulness, of his steadfast love. Joy comes in the morning, but the morning doesn’t always come within eight hours of the sun setting. Dark clouds have filled my days, and I’ve often wondered if they’d overwhelm me.
The clouds crowded me when my best friend, my father, passed from this earth and into another. I would never see his bright eyes and handsome grin again. I wouldn’t get the joy of racing him across the parking lot. The drumbeats that would fill the living room from nothing more than his thighs and knees is now a faint memory. How he could make such sounds from his quads I’ll never really know.
The clouds crowded me when an older man that a group of my friends trusted invaded my space and my innocence. It was a strange way to wake up—a stranger’s hands in places meant only for my future husband. But the most excruciating pain was watching his wife on the stand in the courtroom explain that he was doing better—he had stopped molesting his two children.
The clouds were dark over my head that day. The clouds crowded me six sweet weeks after my husband and I welcomed the news of our first child with joy that we were sure the heavens could feel. We walked in the doctor’s office eager to hear the subtle sound of a heart that had been ignited by our God. We had heard that the beats of those tiny hearts were fast—like little flutters. But we didn’t hear a heartbeat, and we had to experience the agony of that loss three additional times.
Oh, dark clouds have most definitely covered my head. But like the psalmist in Psalm 121 I cry out:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (esv)
God knew about my dark clouds. He knew that I would mourn and weep. God reminds me in his Word that he is my Father. Where does my help come from? It comes from my Father. Each cloudy day brought a ray of hope. Joy comes in the morning. Does God change our circumstances? Sometimes. But more than not, he changes our perspective. He changes our hearts. When I felt empty, he filled me with more of himself.
God doesn’t promise to take away difficult circumstances, but he does promise to be your keeper. Joy is not an artificial happiness. Joy comes from a deep trust in our holy, good, sovereign God. Joy is rest. Resting in him, our Father, our keeper. He is our sustainer of life. We can jump and play because we know that the mighty and holy one is on our side. He draws near to us. He tells you to come, oh weary soul, and he will give you rest (Mt 11:28). The rest will bring peace and joy—joy that we’ll experience forevermore.
Forevermore. That is our hope. Not that our joy will come here and now but that he will one day wipe away every tear and mourning will be no more. Hope is that one day we’ll see our Savior face to face. He is making all things new. And on that day, we will experience a joy that will be indescribable. Those dark clouds will be no more. He longs for us to lift up our eyes and remember where our help comes from. Remember our inheritance and the promises he’s provided for us in his Word. Those are for you and me—today. Right now. Yes, even you right now can experience joy—sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Hymn writer William Cowper once wrote that the dark clouds would break with blessings on your head. He was right. The clouds that we so dread have a purpose. The blessing could simply, yet profoundly, be experiencing more of Jesus. We may not receive all the answers this side of eternity, but may it be that we can say, blessed be the name of the Lord!
If you find yourself in the deepest of darkest clouds searching for joy, ask the Lord who gives abundantly to those who ask. He has grace stored up for you, for this occasion. His grace will sustain you and will bring you out of the despair. His grace is what allows us to say, yes, I am joyful. Not because of anything in me or in my strength but because I have a God who is keeping me, strengthening me and reminding me of my great hope. Joy does come in the morning.
-From “Dark Clouds and Abundant Grace” by Trillia Newbell
Trillia J. Newbell (“Dark Clouds and Abundant Grace”) is the author of Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves and United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. Her writings on issues of faith, family and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition and more. She is currently director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commision for the Southern Baptist Convention. Along with writing, she is pursing her MA in biblical counseling from Southern Theological Seminary. For fun, she enjoys group fitness (she used to be a fitness instructor!), cycling and listening to a variety of music. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, and they reside with their two children near Nashville. You can find her at trillianewbell.com and follow her on Twitter, @trillianewbell.
Publication date: September 21, 2016
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com