Trials. Tribulations. Hardships. Challenges. Obstacles. Struggles. Quandaries.
What mountain are you climbing? What valley are you walking through? What pit are you trying to get out of? What predicament has come upon those you dearly love? What circumstances are outside of the grasp of your control? What is trying to steal your joy?
My dear reader, my heart is sweetly burdened for you this morning, so I want to begin offering a prayer for all of us.
Lord, there are so many Christmas carols ringing with the words of joy – “joy to the world”, “comfort and joy”, “joy is the gift He brings”, and “joy to you and me.” But, in the midst of all these shouts of joy there is deep pain, struggling, and suffering. Lord, I can feel within myself and see in the lives of those around me a wish for joy, yet a series of situations which threatens to evaporate & dry up the joy we have.
Lord, I pray for overflowing joy for each of my treasured readers today and every day. Make it joy that would bust through the limits of the current boundaries of our hearts. Fill us with joy to capacity and then let Your joy pour over, flooding all of the areas of our lives that are dry. Bring refreshment to the deserts, renewal to the valleys, a lifting tide into the pits and waves of provision for ourselves and for those we love.
May the joy of Jesus Christ overflow in our lives, amen.
What is Joy?
Joy is often used as a synonym for happiness. One of the definitions on webster.com reads that joy is “a state of happiness or felicity.” Joy is often presented as a feeling, or an emotion. That is an unsettling thought to me, because I am an emotional person. I know how quickly emotions can come and go, twist and turn, storm and shine. Is joy really so unstable?
I do not think so. I believe that joy is stronger, deeper and more robust than a fickle human emotion.
Joy is a state of the heart, a fruit of the Spirit, rooted firmly in who God is, able to withstand the prevailing winds of life’s circumstances.
While on the surface we may see joy as a source or cause of delight, there are roots that spread deeper and run wider that we can sparsely imagine.
Galatians 5:22-23 includes joy in the Fruit of the Spirit. To me, that makes me smile because I know that part of the Fruit of the Spirit is going to always be out of my reach of full comprehension and understanding. That is the Spirit’s realm of expertise. But, our gracious God allows us to live and walk with the Spirit, so that we can be constantly learning.
Joy is one of my favorite faith classes. PEP UP for Joy. Passionate Encouragement & Prayer Uplifts People for Joy to be shared.
Beyond the Constraints of Smiles, Tears and Troubled Hearts
Joy does bring smiles. Joy does uplift hearts. Joy also walks through rains of tears, and storms of heartache. As I have been continuing my education on joy, I have been holding on to this verse:
"I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds" 2 Corinthians 7:4 (NIV)
As humans we face limitations and boundaries every day. Our time, talents and treasures all confined in some way, shape or form. Yet, Paul says, “in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” No bounds.
Here is the same verse from a different translation:
"I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy." 2 Corinthians 7:4 (ESV)
Here is an incredible attribute of joy; it overflows. Joy covers. Joy runs over. It flows over bounds. It fills voids to capacity and then spreads beyond its limitations.
In the ESV version, Paul says, “in all our affliction.” and in the NIV version he says, “in all our troubles.” I love how Paul uses the word OUR, not mine or his or hers, but OURS.
I have troubles and hardships. You have struggles and afflictions. We face trials and tribulations. The details of the challenges can very dramatically for each of us, but they all put a painful weight and burden upon us.
The weight that a mother feels as she watches her child’s health deteriorate, the pain of suffering outside the limits of her healing touch, burdening her desperate heart for a treatment or cure that will bring relief that she herself can not provide.
The burden of the husband who bears the responsibility of providing for his family, when the doors of opportunity continue to close in his face. Aching from the strain and tension over every dollar driven decision that faces him each day.
The child who now confronts the duty of caring for a parent, the wisdom that once was there to blaze the trail, now looks back for direction and assistance to carry on, bringing with it many new how-to lessons and topics of study, in addition to the daily responsibilities of their own life.
Perhaps it is the strain of thin finances, as if your checkbook is a small print word find where you are trying to seek out the dollars and cents in a row for each bill, responsibility and opportunity during the holiday season. The strain is felt in your eyes, your pocket book and deep into your heart.
Maybe it is a tense relationship in your life. You laboriously think through every word, every phrase and every encounter you have with this person, but all that effort is poured in for no gain. A million pounds of pressure exerted to move forward, but you walk away from it all exhausted feeling pushed ten steps back.
It may be that time in your day is the agony you face. Each morning eyes blink open to see the countdown clock is already running. The Boggle game begins. The blocks have been tossed and have landed haphazardly. Now it’s your job to make sense and purpose out of it all. How can you fuel your passions while tending to all these responsibilities? You are seeking opportunities to finish things well and the clock reminds you that time is slipping faster, faster and faster through your fingers.
Struggles, troubles and afflictions. They are ours. We all have them.
Joy is not limited by these hardships. Joy can flow over these obstacles. Joy can pass beyond boundaries that we see as constraints.
Sometimes it feels that the sum total of our time, talents and treasures amounts to just a few seeds in our hands. It can appear to be a whole lot of nothing. Knowing that we reap what we sow, we try our best to dig ahead. Sweat beading on our foreheads, and tears welling in our eyes.
"Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest." Psalm 126:5-6 (NLT)
A seed is planted in the ground covered by a blanket of dirt. Transformed it throws back the cover and a plant bursts forth transformed in size & shape, growing forward with purpose. It continues to face harsh sun, cold nights, wind and storms, but it grows on. It blooms and blossoms. It brings forth fruit and the seeds that once were few are now found in abundance.
The Spirit can work in all of OUR situations and circumstances. Tiny little seeds, planted through pain, frustration, and tears, can be transformed and can grow into the fruit of joy. Bringing more seeds that can be planted in our life and the lives of those around us.
Boundary busting, limit liquidating, perimeter passing JOY.
I do not know the specifics of the trials and tribulations that are facing my readers in this day. But, I do know that they carry a heavy weight of burden. I know these challenges cause pain, fatigue, frustration and suffering. But I also know that Your joy is beyond our comprehension. Like it says in Nehemiah, “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
Lord, as I look at the seeds in my hands, it does not look like much. Please bless my little passion, encouragement and prayers. Transform my readers, grow deep roots of trust into Your abundant life and then grow them upward breaking through the dirt, bringing forth a harvest of joy into their lives.
May my love for each of them point them to Your love so their lives may be overflowing with joy and strong enough to withstand the prevailing winds of any circumstances.
In the limitless name of Jesus, with the grace of the Father and with the power of the Spirit, amen.