Today, I am blessed to have Elisabeth Klein, a sister Redbud writer, guest post here. She is sharing a piece from her Advent devotionals. May her words speak freshly into your soul.
I did not want to write today when I saw that the next topic on my list was joy. In fact, I closed the document and went on to do some other tasks and even went for a walk. Anything not to have to write about joy today. Because I am not feeling joyful.
And then I realized, neither are you, more than likely. So, perhaps, when I don’t feel joy is the perfect time to write about joy.
Because joy is not a feeling.
Joy is not based on a circumstance.
Joy is not the same as happiness.
Joy is a choice.
Joy can come in the middle of pain.
Joy can come in the middle of sadness.
Joy can come in the middle of weariness.
Joy comes in the morning.
Today, I am sad and confused. I am struggling to see hope in my future. I so wish this weren’t the case. I wish I were steadier in all things no matter what was going on around me. But this is my reality.
And today, I’m wondering what you are feeling, dear reader? Are you sad? Confused? Is hope evading you? Are your circumstances swirling? Are you unsteady?
Then these are the circumstances in which you are best able to lean into Jesus, which sets the foundation for joy seeping into your soul.
I am a believer that joy comes from gratitude. So, in the midst of your painful situation right now, I want you to pause, and thank Jesus for every single good thing in your life that you can think of, big and little. Nothing is too small to thank him for. He is our good-gift provider. I’ll start you off…
Jesus left heaven for you.
Jesus was born of a virgin for you.
Jesus lived a spotless life for you.
Jesus died on the cross for you.
Jesus came back to life for you.
Jesus hears you.
Jesus sees you.
Jesus holds you.
Jesus created you.
Jesus plans to redeem your pain.
Jesus loves you.
Jesus… (Keep going, sweet one…what else has Jesus done for you?)
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. –Psalm 30:5–
God, I am lacking joy today. But since you command it, it must be a choice. So today, I thank you for all of your goodness and faithfulness and intimate care. Help me choose joy in my pain. Help me lean into you. Amen.
If this post resonated with you, Holidays for the Hurting: 25 Devotions to Help You Heal would be your companion through this season.
Elisabeth Klein is the grateful wife to Richard and grateful mom and stepmom to five. She writes, speaks and mentors women in difficult marriages, those going through divorce, single moms, those dating post-divorce, and those who are remarried and stepmothers. You can find her at www.elisabethklein.com.
I lift up my eyes to the hills–
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–
he who watches over you will not slumber; (Psalm 121:1-3)
As we move about this world, it becomes all too easy to let our gaze be set on what we see out in front or down below. The mind interprets our interactions with our surrounding territory. Most of the time, we walk on level ground. Therefore, our perspective is shaped by what we feel, hear, see, and touch within that area.
However, as followers of Christ, we must remember that there is another Kingdom being built upon the one which we see only at eye level. The new one is infinite and transforms what our mind and body senses. It is ruled by Jesus, who, came down from the “hills” to point us to it.
It’s easy to allow fear to dictate our perceptions of circumstances here. Changes in health, job status, loss, and looming life-changing decisions tempt us to gravitate to Earthly self-satisfying answers. When we do that, we see ourselves through the eyes of the Israelites. Despite the marvels of God’s hand displayed in front of them, they longed for security in what the Earth can offer.
But we are called to lift our heads and change our view. The answer we need may not be found from the perspective from which we are looking. We don’t need to fear. Our God is aware of the struggles we face. The answer we need will come. We just need to look up.
Dear God: Thank you for extending yourself down from the Heavenly realms to this Earth where you have placed us. We acknowledge that seeking answers purely from our eye-level becomes very tempting. Waiting is hard. Suffering is hard. Please grant us peace as we fix our gaze on the hills and look into your face, and wait.
My neighbor and I have some lively discussions. It’s refreshing; actually, since our demographics differ greatly. He is an 80 year old widower, father, grandfather, vet; and agnostic I am 50, wife, mom, and Christian. We talk about everything: parenting, economics, the state of the country, gardening and when the Spirit opens a window of opportunity-religion. Although his wife was connected to a church family, he had (and continues to have) no desire to learn more about the character of God nor be part of the body through whom the Holy Spirit here on Earth.
The funny thing is, we share similar philosophies regarding many issues such as parenting, lifestyle and a belief in right and wrong. The difference of course is that I see my worldview reflecting the “kingdom” on Earth in which I live. One that is supposed to radiate light to others; one that should bring a salty flavor to those who encounter it; one that turns the human ways of looking at things on its head. It is indeed a Kingdom that began as God chose to be in covenant with imperfect human beings and through whom would show the other nations that “I am your God”.
As our recent discussion turned to the issues of abortion and valuing life, I heard him passionately state his sadness and anger at the act. Personally, I believe abortion to be more than a legal issue. I think there are a plethora of social layers that must be addressed in order to decrease abortions, I stated to my neighbor, “Well, it would help if the Church would be the Church.”
He stared at me for a minute before replying, “You know…that’s a good one! That is really true. ‘If the Church would be the Church’, he mumbled to himself. “I’m going to remember that.”
When I said that, I wasn’t referring to protesters outside clinics or social media comments. I was referring to being the hands of feet of Christ who bear the image of God through actions that seek to restore and bring wholeness-providing, shelter, materials, friendship, help along the journey of giving life. Hopefully, it would result in reducing the possibility that abortion would even be considered as an option.
Because of Ray’s reaction to my statement, I am left pondering the question, “Why is he not seeing the Church?”
Who else is not drawn to it because its visibility has diminished; it’s saltiness has become stale; its light-dim?
Certainly, we, in our humanity, can’t fix everything. Earth is a taste of Heaven. But at the same time it’s just that-a taste. Shouldn’t there be something about living in God’s Kingdom that would make people walk away from life as they know it in order to be part of such a place?
Casting Crowns’ song, “We are the body” so eloquently asks the questions we as the church should be asking. (the song is based on James 2)
But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them…..There is a way?
As Jesus is the way.
In my next post, I will share some creative ways that the body of Christ’s arms reach others in their dire circumstances and show them Jesus is the way.