I was talking to a friend.
She sighed. Things still hadn't changed. Her monotone voice described it all, everything was still exactly the same, just as it had been for - years. Different day, same problems. No end in sight.
I imagined her - hands clenched, arms crossed, eyes squinting as she talked about it. I imagined her, banging her hand against the table as the details of "wrong" unfolded over the phone. I couldn't blame her; she had every right to be upset. Her problems are the kinds of things that people label: "Injustice, injury and unfairness."
Who am I to discount her pain?
After all, I know pain too. I know the pain of asking, and hearing dead air. I know the pain of wanting and getting nothing in return. I know the pain of dreaming of next steps, yet having the stepping stones pulled out from under me. I know these things well. I get upset at them. I get red-faced. I get inward. I get impatient with the big man who isn't pulling strings for me.
"God! Don't you see?"
"God! Don't you care?"
What my friend said next stopped me. Emboldened, she whispered, "Everything is the same, but I now have the joy of the Lord." These words broke me. They pierced.
In what she didn't have, she saw all she did. Where God seemed absent, she let him in.
Do you receive the joy of the Lord? Do you let it penetrate when things are rotten from the inside-out?
There are angles, or perspectives, from which we can choose to see things. It makes all the difference to how we live life. A prisoner sees confines and has no dreams of hope. A mountain-climber sees victory and proceeds accordingly. A defeated Christian sees discouragement and rejection and averts any possibility of renewal.
What do you see? What is your perspective?
I can't help but think, you can't live, what you don't believe is possible. If you think the gap to greater peace or faith is too wide, you will never risk the jump. You will simply stay where you are.
With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Do you believe this? Do you live this way?
If you think you are standing on an earthly swamp, have you considered its eternal good?
If you think you are standing on a box with confines, have you considered it may just help you proclaim God in a way that people really want to listen?
If you think that you are held back, have you considered that God might be allowing it so you can find yourself held in his arms?
We see muted tones, while God sees the vibrancy of his will and love always at work.
She explained, "This really is what it is all about..."
It is. Isn't it?
3 Ways to Grab The Joy of the Lord Amidst the Backdrop of Pain:
1. Trust in those places where you hate to trust.
What is the place where you hate to trust, can hardly trust and fall down when you try to trust? What sets you off on a path of unbelief? If you put faith over fear, you will make giant strides in joy. Why? Because, you will work faithfulness in the wide-open gap of your unabashed trust. Faithfulness is who he is.
Will it always look like direct answers to your problem? No.
But, will it always soothe your soul? Yes.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
2. Go about Wondering What God is Developing
Remember days before iPhones? Pictures were on film, but then they took time to develop. Paper looked white until it went through processing. God has us processing too. He is at work to do something, but it takes time. We can either trust or pull our hair out. We can either wait believing or wait agonizing. We can either hope in the more or continually see our less.
What will we do?
When we believe there is a picture of beauty about to unfold, we wait for it in anticipation.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)
3. Bathe Yourself in Christ's Love
If you immerse yourself in prayer, worship and truth - discouragement, doubt and despair naturally wipe away. This requires not just doing, but being - being with God and feeling his heart towards you. Here, truth grows legs and comes alive.
Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15:9-11)
My friend may not have changed circumstances, but she has a changed perspective. And, when you can't change anything, you can always change outlook. Joy waits for us. For, when you can't see a way, God always can.
Publication date: April 26, 2016