Tag Archives: Joy

Joy, Where Are You?

Some mornings I can barely find the energy to get out of bed. I’m exhausted and worn out and in pain and I simply don’t want to do anything but lay there. This morning was one of those mornings. My alarm clock (AKA, my children) started screaming in my ears and I had to get up and face the world. Before I could even get out of bed, the girls were already dressed for church and chattering in their fastest, most excited voices about what they might do at church today. So, begrudgingly, I got up, showered, and got ready for church.
And I’m glad I did. 

We sang some of my favorite Christmas songs, which immediately lifted my mood a bit.

  

“I rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

Today’s sermon was titled, “Joy” and based on Luke 2:8-20. My first thought, from anxious and depressed mind was, “oh great, joy. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now.” But that’s exactly why I needed to hear it. 

Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭ESV

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

So apparently, joy is command. My pastor opened up the sermon with that and all I could think was, “great, we’re starting the morning off with something I suck at.” But as he kept talking, I understood it more. God doesn’t want me to have fake joy, like the fake smile I tend to plaster on my face when I tell everyone I’m doing great. But God wants me to a real, genuine joy – the kind that only He can give me; the kind that comes from being awestruck by an amazing God. 

  

Let me be real here for a minute, the last few weeks I have been stuck in a cycle of sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I’m having brain surgery in four days and I’m scared – really scared, about all the “what ifs” and things that could possibly go wrong. I really haven’t felt much joy at all. I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve just been quietly simmering with anger at God for not making me healthy. But the more I’ve ignored God, the worse I’ve felt. The more I’ve pushed Him away, the angrier I’ve gotten. My joy has been nonexistent.

I feel like an outsider in this world, like I just don’t belong anywhere. I have some wonderful friends and great church family – but often, I just feel different, like I don’t fit in with anyone. I feel lost. My pastor’s first point today was that joy is for the outsiders. We explained how God sent His angels to the shepherds, of all people. He could’ve sent the angels to someone powerful, like a king or ruler, but He didn’t. He sent them to shepherds – to the outsiders. 

In the same way, in our current society, God doesn’t come only for the “insiders.” He doesn’t come just for the powerful and popular – He comes for the outsiders. But here’s the thing, if you really think about it – we’re all outsiders. None of us in this world are insiders; we are all OUTSIDE of Heaven. And my pastor made a good point, even the people who I look at and think have it together and appear to fit in so well – even they struggle with feeling like outsiders, it simply part of being human. And we all feel like no one else feels the way we do so none of us talk about it; but if we did, we would know we weren’t alone. 

  

So in acknowledging that others feel like outsiders as well and many of us never speak of it, how well do I reflect God to others? How well do I reflect God’s love to those who feel like they don’t belong?

The second point that my pastor made today was that joy comes from Heaven. We don’t create joy from within ourselves. I can be sad or depressed or going through a rough time and still feel joy in my heart. God is perfect and Holy and separate from us, but He is also imminent and close through Jesus. 

The glory and power of God reassuring, but it should also leave a healthy fear in us. When the angels came to the shepherds, they were scared because they felt unworthy of their holiness. But the angels told them not to be afraid, for they had new that would bring great joy. The birth of Jesus brings us joy by reminding us that even though we may be going through a rough time now, even though we’re scared, even though we feel lost, even though life is hard – a savior has come to save us. 
How much different would my life be if I believed, I mean rally believed deep in my heart, that Jesus came down from Heaven for me? 

  

Lastly, my pastor touched on having joy in the valley – this was, I felt, the most fitting part for me today. I’ve had “mountaintop experiences” – times where God’s love and glory are so apparent that I am in awe and filled with joy. The goal is to live out the joy from those mountain top experiences while we’re in the valley. God wants me to treasure His words in my heart and live my life in faith. It doesn’t sounds THAT difficult. But when you’re in the valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative – the fear, worry, pain, and anxiety. But God calls us to remember the things we know to be true, to remember the mountaintop, remember what His closeness feels like – those are the things that will bring us joy in the valley. 

Each day that God gives me in a gift and I should rejoice in every day – even the days when I’m in the valley. 

So let me rephrase my current thoughts and worries…

  

I’m having brain surgery in four days. I may be scared, but even if the worst happens – if I were to die, I would go Home to Jesus and have no more pain. If it’s successful, I will stop going blind and my vision will be saved. If something goes wrong and I come out of surgery with some type of disability, God will use that to glorify Him. I am scared and I really don’t want to go through with it. But just like He always does, God has me in the palm of His hand and whatever happens will not be a surprise to Him, He already knows and He will care for and provide for me no matter what.

I simply need to trust Him and find my joy in Him, not in this world.

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Who do You Trust for Protection?

For most of my life, I could only wonder at what is was like to be protected. I longed for that kind of protection that only a daddy could provide. I longed to feel like I was worth being protected. As I got older, I threw myself, head first, into horrible situations in hopes that it would be in that situation that a man, any man, would step up and protect me (it’s only in retrospect that I know the reasoning behind why I was doing such crazy things). But all the reckless behavior and perpetual lies only led to more disappointment and resentment when no one ever protected me they way I thought they should.

Through a series of unexpected, but fortunate, events, I’ve come to know that there’s only One who can protect me the way I want; the way I need. And I can’t expect my husband, my parents, or anyone else to protect me the way God can.

Last week, I was driving Robert’s truck down the highway at 70 mph with my parents and my kids in the truck. Out of nowhere a car comes over into our lane, running us off the road in the process. As soon as I saw that car, I gripped the wheel as hard as I could and swerved onto the shoulder, I was all I could do to control the truck once it hit the gravel and I did not think that I was going to be able to control it. I was sure that we would were going to crash into the guardrail. But somehow, the truck came to a stop. Shaking and scared, I looked at the backseat; my girls were safe, smiling, and ALIVE! But that’s when I noticed that Rylinn (2 years) had pulled her arms out of the straps in her car seat. IF we had wrecked, she likely would have been killed. If the car had hit us, the truck, most likely, would have flipped because of the height of the truck, the lowness of the car, and the slight angle of the road. I believe, had that happened, my mom, who was in the passenger seat where the car would have hit, and Rylinn would not have survived and that Mackenzie (3 years), my step-dad, and myself would have all been severely injured, if not dead. I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been if we had hit the guardrail, but I don’t think it would’ve been pretty and I don’t think Rylinn would have survived that either. These scenarios have played over and over in my mind and each time I think about it, I am simply amazed by God’s power and His great, great love.

After later talking about it, my mom told me not to give myself so little credit about not being able to control the truck because I did great and she was proud of me. But here’s the thing, I don’t think I stopped that truck – God did. It was definitely a “Jesus, take the wheel” moment. It only last a few seconds but it felt like hours and it was, quite possibly, the most terrifying moment of my life. It was a moment where, I believed, the lives of four of the people I love most in this world were in my hands and my actions would either save them or kill them. But what I’m realizing in retrospect is that their lives weren’t in my hands at all, they were, and are, in God’s.

That was the first time in my life that I have, that obviously, witnessed God’s hands protecting me. If it were only within my power, I would’ve lost control of the truck and we would’ve wrecked. I am so very thankful that I don’t have to go through life on my power alone; that God is with me through every step.

So my next point is about trust. Every day we trust in so many things, without even realizing it. When we get in our cars, we trust that they will work properly and get us safely to our destination. When we get on the road, we trust the drivers in the other vehicles to drive safely and abide by the laws of the road. When we eat at a restaurant, we trust that food we are ingesting will not make us sick. The list could go on and on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture by now.

We have to put our trust in something or someone, so where is it? I know that I struggle every day (at least once, if not more) with trusting in my own power when I have seen obvious situations (like the one above) where it is only by God’s power that I was able to be successful.

It’s only in trusting in God’s power and protection that we will be able to make it through this world with peace and joy. This world is hectic and chaotic and dangerous and without the understand God is ultimately in control of it, we’d be lost and drowning in our own worry.


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