Written by Jamie Martelle
I’ve been toying with this idea of writing for our blog for awhile now, since my husband suggested it. Lately, life seems to keep me too busy to actually pause and string together the things God has been speaking into my life. I had some inner turmoil with the whole idea of putting my thoughts out there for all the world to see (at least, insofar as those in the world who decide to visit our blog!) but my mentor assured me that it would be just fine, and she was actually excited about it! Now, I find that words are coming and thoughts are forming, I know that God has a plan.
The thoughts and words that have been pouring into my mind all have one thing in common, one main theme: joy. Not that elusive emotion based on ever-changing circumstances; no, more accurately, that deep, deep, sense that all will be well and all will be well indeed, in spite of how all things may appear. I’ve been searching for joy. This is not a new expedition, however. I can remember being in grade school and trying to come up with goals for my life and I remember just wanting to be happy, because that seemed to be top priority, and was lacking, and I couldn’t think past that. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? As time has gone by, I’ve realized that this world is not a very happy place, after all, for many. Jesus said it perfectly when, after he described his impending death, he told his beloved disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” So, there is that un-happy fact. The thing that opens the door to joy for me is what He said next, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
A good friend has been praying for me to have joy for over a year now, and I love her for that and for the blessing she is to my life. I believe the Lord is orchestrating those prayers and other elements in my life to reshape who I am and my heart into that which He destined for me. Even those situations that I would definitely not choose but apparently have been chosen for me, at least allowed into my life so the Lord can use them in His divine lesson plan. There is a greater joy than my human heart can comprehend in realizing that Christ is actively teaching me, and though I have not yet learned my lessons well, I’m beginning to get the idea.
Besides just WANTING to have joy (obviously, who doesn’t?), the Lord tells us so many times in the Bible that we are to have it. I think we all know that, and I think some of us have felt that we have been chastised a bit because we struggle with this, as if there were some problem with our salvation because we don’t seem to be “walking in the joy of the Lord.” Just for the record, chastising, in any form, does not help anyone have joy. We know we need it, we want it, and we know that God wants us to have it. If you are reading this, filled with sorrow, desperately needing to let it spill out so you can take in some comfort and receive some peace – let this be your word for today:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)
The Lord longs to give us the comfort that we need – He went to great lengths to be able to do so — and He has asked that we do that for one another . . . to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15b ESV). If we struggle with this beyond what we can bear, there is no shame in asking for help, from a friend or from a counselor, and seeking the treatment that we need. As the body of Christ, let us always be ready to help a brother or sister find healing. Finally, brothers [and sisters], rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV).
The book of Nehemiah records the words of Ezra, the priest, speaking to the Israelites when they were filled with sadness over falling short of the words of the law, when he said: “Go, eat and drink what you enjoy, and give some to him who has nothing ready. For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). It’s interesting what John Wesley had to say about this verse in his Explanatory Notes, “Rejoicing in God in serving him with cheerfulness, and thankfulness, which is your duty always, but now especially, will give you that strength both of mind and body, which you greatly need, both to perform all the duties required of you, and to oppose all the designs of your enemies.” Oh, yes, we need joy – we most assuredly do.
Looking back at my friend Dan’s most recent entry in his blog, Walking With Faith, to see how many words this thing actually requires (there’s a transparent moment for you), what do I find but a post about joy! This is not a post about jumping-up-and-down-with joy or pie-in-the-sky joy, but finding joy in the midst of our troubles because it gives Jesus a chance to grow our endurance, hence, the joy (James 1:2-3). Our Christian faith seems sometimes to be such a heritage of ironies, doesn’t it?
But, isn’t that just like our God? A God who uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and uses the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27); a God who died and rose again to give us eternal life – with Him? This same God teaches us the secret to joy by inviting us to come abide with Him and know Him — in his death — so as to somehow attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11), because God IS love, and that’s what love is, to lay down one’s life for his friends, and Jesus has called us his friends (John 15:13, 15).
That love, my friends, that love is the secret to joy. That extravagant, stupefying, abounding love that Christ pours out for you and for me, for all mankind . . . when I abide in Him and in that crazy love of His, I find joy. I want you to find it, too. Then, on this long journey with the Love of your life, as He leads you beside still waters and makes you lie down on green pastures, as well as along those arduous treks of trying times that grow your faith and strengthen your steps, shine that light for others to see, so they can find it, too.
“Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger or higher or wider, nothing is more pleasant, nothing fuller, and nothing better in heaven or on earth, for love is born of God and cannot rest except in God” –Thomas à Kempis
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence. (Acts 2:28)