This is my stepson Brandon, the joy on his face says it all, embrace life, live joyfully!
This week has been interesting, to say the least. I have had to deal with teenage issues, anger issues, grief issues, body issues, mental health issues, financial issues, too many teeth issues, and on and on and on. But, the topic of joy has come up in several conversations, so I realized God had a lesson in this for me, and I didn’t want to miss it. Joy and happiness are different concepts. Happiness is a feeling, connected to how a particular event is going, or not going. It changes like the wind, I feel happy because you…., you made me happy by……, get my point? But joy is a separate entity all together, and God talks about it’s importance in his word. So, I spent some time praying and talking to him about joy and this is what he shared with me.
Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect lacking in nothing.
Hmmm, joy in the midst of trials. It seems to go against our nature, but I knew he was making a bigger point here. God wants us to be victorious OVER our trials, not accepting of them. For me, this made my agreements issue quite obvious. I had made an agreement that I would be in pain the rest of my life, and that was easily stealing my joy. When those of us who endure chronic pain, unrelenting pain and sickness, it is easy to get overwhelmed and sucked in by the medical system and diagnosis codes, and we come to beleive this is who we are now. How wrong I was in this. Not only is pain or my medical issues not who I am, but I am not bound to them. They can only imprison me if I let them, and releasing them to God is cathartic.
He went on to show me Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!
He didn’t say when I feel like it, he didn’t say when I wasn’t writhing in pain, he said ALWAYS, which is profound to me. There was a reason he was showing me rejoicing always was significant, and this is what he meant by that:
Nehamiah 8:10 …..Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Ahhhh, then I got it. I live in constant pain. Some days I can walk and breathe through it and other days I can barely make it to the bathroom. My anatomy is problematic, putting it mildly, and I am given morphine and other strong meds to try and get through my day, but I don’t give in to that. God was telling me loud and clear that in my pain, my physical weakness, the joy I have in him will be what gives me strength. And strength comes in different forms.
I may not can bend, lift, or sit like most people and walking for lengths of time is a challenge, I lose my strength rather quickly. But, if I rest I can go on for a while. My spiritual strength is what is at stake here. The very nature of having an illness with the possible outcome of paralysis in both legs would zap anyones strength. Just wading through the medications, doctor appointments, and symptoms would make anyone throw in the towel. But, thanks to the abundant grace of God, he gives me joy, and it’s contagious. Some of those days, too many I hate to say, where wrapped with a veil of despair, depression, like I couldn’t even explain why I felt sad or empty, I just did. Even on the days I couldn’t use ‘happy’ as an adjective I chose joy because at the end of the day I know in him I am well, whole, and holy. What a revelation! It’s really about our joy, him desiring for us to be joyful, in him, despite the trials we are walking through. And what I have found that when I choose joy people notice it, my light is brighter to the point they ask me what’s my secret. And I love telling them, even when I have to adjust my position a million times I take the time to tell them, because I see the lack of joy in my friends, my family, and on faces I see every day, it’s a complete pandemic in our world.
And then I came back to the significance of each of us. I truly believe that it is not our insignificance we fear but our significance on a grander scale. God made each of us unlike any other. We each have the ability to change this world and glorify God if we choose to. The question is, will we embrace our significance in the bigger story that God is writing or will we hide behind our feelings of insignificance? Will we stay stuck in car pool, dance recitals, working long hours, or addicted to Facebook, and not realize that our destiny in this life is to live boldy, joyfully, through our trials and shine a bright light in this world? That light gets attention doesn’t it? Guess what makes people attracted to bright lights? Luminosity, a light that glows. Within each of us we are luminous in varying degrees. I believe our joy is the power that illuminates our spirits, and it is why God said rejoice always, be luminous always, so that others may see a pathway to God. How in your life are you sharing joy and being luminous? Is your light showing a pathway to God, and are you willing to share it?
I can’t tell you the people I come across on a daily basis that are in need of this light in their lives. A friends dad is battling cancer and very little joy is found in the hospital, a friend is in such despair they are considering ending their life because they don’t believe joy exists, and another friend is feeling overwhelmed with the day to day struggles of simply trying to be a good person. I know each of you come in contact with friends and people like these every day. Are you a source of light, of joy, or are you another face sharing the same space, or reading a post and not replying for a loss of words or time? If I had to choose one concept that we all are in a war fighting for it would be the protection of our joy. Are we losing or winning this battle for God?
I am a fruitcake at times. My trains of thought are wildly sporadic, and people often wonder if I am one brick short of a full load. What I really want them to know about me is my Ardithian way of life is one where I choose JOY on a daily basis. I choose not to be stuck to the emotion of when our house was burning down, when a gun was held to my and my moms head, when I was naive to the point in high school where I had no clue about boundaries, when my first husband left us on Christmas Eve, when the doctor said it’s untreatable, uncurable, it’s a horrific diagnosis, or when I was faced with any one of my 20 surgeries. We all have our “lists” don’t we? And though it’s not easy, the times I do it, my life is blessed beyond measure and I am the luckiest person walking this planet. My prayers are for you to feel the same and to find it in you to choose joy as well.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.