Friday, October 28, 2011

Rivers of Joy

Many years ago, when I was going through the heartache of a painful divorce, a very dear friend gave me a wall plaque with the words “The Joy of the Lord is your Strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)  I wondered what in the world that meant to me, as I struggled to come to terms with the harsh realities of divorce and single parenthood. Joy was the last thing on my mind.

I dismissed my friend's gift, deciding that, although she meant well, she just didn't have a clue what I was going through. On the contrary, she most certainly did. She saw the pain written all over me and came to me in a spirit of love and generosity that was so characteristic of her as a friend. She sat with me, and she cried with me, deeply joining me in my grief. But, she refused to leave me there.

She called me to come out of my despair and self-pity and choose instead to “Count It All Joy.” (James 1:2)

It's easy to embrace joy when everything is going right, the sun is shining, we are healthy, the bills are paid, and life is good. But, what happens when life “blows up” on us and everything is up for grabs?

Life can change in an instant. We get a dreaded diagnosis from the doctor, we lose our job, we lose our house, or, worse yet, we lose someone we dearly love through death or divorce. Where is the joy then?

In my own life, these kind of crises have visited me more than once. Ever so slowly, I have learned that I could choose to be buried in the grief and pain - or I could choose joy. I could pray that God would fill me to overflowing with His joy, in spite of the circumstances. That He would surround me with friends that wouldn't allow me to sink into self-pity. I could pray that He would draw close to me and, especially in those painful times, 'The Joy of the Lord' would be my strength...

I have found Him to be faithful, beyond measure, to answer those prayers. He knew, as my friend did, that I would have to choose joy in those moments when I would rather not.

My friend lovingly called me out of my misery to look for my Redeemer. She taught me not to bury all of life's goodness in the grave of despair. With a gentle push to look to the Lord as The Source of My Strength and My Joy, she taught me to listen for His still, small voice, over the screaming voices of pain and heartache.

It is so often in the middle of a heartbreaking or frightening crisis in my life that I hear Him calling me to come a little closer and let Him carry me into the River of Joy...

Scripture Reference: Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst,
The Mighty One will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love...”

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How are you doing on your journey with the Lord? Started yet? Still searching. My prayer is that you will be encouraged to seek after Him with all your heart. Without a doubt, you will find Him. He is searching for YOU!