Sunday, July 13, 2014

Choose Joy

I didn’t sleep well last night, and I couldn’t really put a finger on why I was in strange mood. Not necessarily mad or upset, just feeling down.  Despite not sleeping so great, I got up earlier than I had to for church and was ready ahead of schedule with some time to kill. I clicked over to Pinterest to peruse and I saw this graphic. It was cute.

Then I read it. Twice. And it hit me. Aloud, I said, “You’re so wrong” to my computer screen.
Afterwards, I got Mak ready and we left for church.

Then, in Sunday School, we talked about hope, and Elizabeth, a sweet lady in my class and dear friend read from 1 Peter 1:6: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials… and we talked about hope in the midst of cancer, accidents, loss, grief, how our time here is but a fraction of a moment, and sometimes that hope gets lost in our humanity. We forget that like a precious metal, strife refines us and purifies us. (1:7) These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  And that sometimes, maybe even our whole life, we might not be “happy.” Life doesn’t always work that way. Scroll through the local news and you’ll see a whole lot of unhappy. If that’s the purpose of life… to be happy… isn’t the whole world doing an awfully bad job at living? Then, in 1 Peter 1:8- Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. Read that last word again. JOY. 

The reason for my funk lately is grief. I’m okay, but every once in a while, my womb aches. I feel sick as a smile at a little one, comparing it’s age to where my babies would be today. I try to fight it, but sometimes a bitter taste rolls up into my mouth, and I get into one of those moods where I can’t exactly explain what’s wrong, something just is. And sometimes, it happens so fast I don't even realize what's wrong with me. 
I didn’t put all of this into cohesive thought until a new family visiting this morning in church chose out of an entire empty auditorium to sit directly in front of me so that tiny infant girl they brought would lay over their shoulder and look at me, reminding me of this. When I groaned (inwardly) as they sat down, that same taste, that same ache moved through me and that’s when I realized my own unhappiness was the ever present grief I so often try to forget. 

As I came to this realization, Brother Chip began the message, leading us through and introduction to 1 John, which will be the focus of the next few week’s sermons. As he began, he outlined John’s purpose to writing to the church at Ephesus, and he read  1 John 1:3 and 4- We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our/your joy complete. 
His sermon to on four points- that John wrote with clarity and simplicity to remind his church of 1) the JOY that comes from fellowship with Christ, 2) we are called to holiness- that is to be set a part, 3) that we must not waver from the true doctrine of the gospel, and 4) to help us find assurance in our salvation. 

I kept rereading that first point- JOY, and then Brother Chip share a quote from Kay Warren’s book Choose Joy. “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things…” Brother Chip said sorrow and happiness can’t run parallel, but joy and sorrow can. At the time, I didn’t realize she was Rick Warren’s wife, and boy, she can testify to sorrow. 

Sorrow is the angst. It’s the smile that’s not really a smile that leads my husband to ask if I’m okay, and I say, yeah, because I am, aren’t I? I thought I was. I’m trying to be. I’m not really. 
You see, sorrow and happiness don’t run together. 

But joy…

“Joy cannot be manipulated by the actions of puny human beings. It is not dependent on the amount of sadness or suffering or difficulties you endure. Joy cannot be held hostage to fear, pain, anger, disappointment, sadness, or grief…” (Kay Warren)

This is that hope we talked about in Sunday School. The hope that this life isn’t all there is.

“During our lifetime, we “stand on the tracks” looking for signs of Jesus Christ’s return…One day in the brightness of His coming we will meet Him face to face. And when we do, the tracks of joy and sorrow will merge. The sorrow will disappear forever,and only joy will remain. And everything will make perfect sense.” (Warren)

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

I’m sure the Dahli Lama meant well, and I know he said some pretty wise things in his years. But he got it wrong when he said that the purpose in life was to be happy. It’s to love Him. This world we live in is broken and full of sorrow, but those of us who know Him know joy, joy that comes from the peace within the promise that this world isn’t all we have, and that though I won’t know all the details, He does. He’s in control, and He’s got me.

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