I wonder sometimes if in writing this blog I present a life in God- with God as being easy-breezy, void of disappointment, frustration or fear. As if the instant we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior all of our problems disappear, too. Have I misrepresented a relationship with the Father as an everlasting promise of cotton candy, rainbow-colored unicorns, and fields of four-leaf clovers? Am I selling Jesus like some shifty car salesman trying to close a deal?
These questions bubble up in me when I’m having to challenge myself to do what I preach; to act like the Bible is true; to walk out what I say I believe. And if I- so moved in my soul to share the love of Him who saves with whomever will read- find myself constantly shaking off disappointment, frustration and fear, then what is the new believer thinking, feeling, experiencing?
When you give your life to Christ, no one tells you that David had to wait 15 years before he was crowned king. Or that the majority of those 15 years, he was running for his life. No one tells you how Abraham, the Father of Faith, and his wife Sara waited until they were almost *100* years old before they saw God’s promise of an heir realized. The man that baptized me never mentioned that, like Joseph, to be gifted in dreams and a destiny may cause your loved ones to despise you. My Sunday School teacher conveniently left out that Daniel, who was thrown into the lion’s den, in fact had the favor and esteem of the king.
YOU CAN HAVE THE FAVOR AND ESTEEM OF THE KING AND STILL FIND YOURSELF IN A LION’S DEN.
About once a month, I’m tempted to drive pass the exit to my home and run off into a new unknown. Think Thelma and Louise. It’s in those moments I try to actually drown out the voice of Holy Spirit by blasting the radio or simply make a phone call. Because Holy Spirit can’t talk to me if I’m already talking to someone else, right? Ha!
And like a child, frustrated that my silent treatment is of no effect with the Almighty, I concede with an onslaught of questions. “But why?” “Why do I have to…?” “Why would she say…?” “Why did You allow…?” “Why, Lord, why?”
Silence. Ugh- I can give it, but I can’t take it.
One morning post silent-treatment, I was listening to the Word as I was getting dressed. Don’t judge. And these verses demanded a rewind:
“God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas.” 1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 MSG
I sat down and absorbed the onslaught of answers to my infantile questions.
Life in Christ should be easy-breezy. But when we come to Him, our lives are clogged with pre-existing hurts, habits, distrust and disappointments. When we come to Christ, we try to apply the same coping mechanisms and manipulative tactics that we use in our day-to-day with others with Him. But Jesus isn’t asking us to cope and He won’t be manipulated. He tests and purges us on an ongoing basis so that we will be free of error, mixed motives or hidden agendas. Where are those green pastures He mentioned in Psalm 23?
I say, “I’m tired, Lord. Can I have at least one month of not being tested? Just 30 days of peace? 720 hours of conciliatory interactions with your people? Just one month, Lord, with nothing popping off?”
While driving…again… these words drop in my spirit:
THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH.
The words are from Nehemiah 8:10 (AMP): And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.
In Nehemiah 8 the walls of Jerusalem have just been rebuilt, but their lives are in shambles. Israel has been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years because of their own sin. And over the decades, they have forgotten their heritage, lost their language, and forsaken their God. As a result their lives were in great distress (Nehemiah 9:36).
They established new boundaries, but they’re still enslaved. They erected symbols of their noble past, but their future appears uncertain. They’ve taken measures to fortify their lives, only to realize their still not in control of it.
Many of us come to Christ bound to an erroneous idea of what love looks like and enslaved to our past. Like the Israelites, we too, get distressed when our Christian walk does not look like cotton candy, rainbow-colored unicorns, and four-leaf clovers, but rather seasons of testing and purging.
But the Lord is telling me and you, as He did the Israelite’s, “be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.”
The joy of the Lord becomes our strength as we realize that we can only come to God from where we are. As we try to rebuild the walls of our lives, we will never hear the Father say, “I told you so” or “you should have known better” or “look what a mess you’ve made of your life”. No. Our God says, “Be strengthened in My joy for you. Be strengthened in My delight of you. Be strengthened in knowing that I take joy in you.”
God’s joy builds muscle!
The muscle needed to muscle through life. The muscle needed to develop spiritual fortitude, to fill us with hope. It is His joy to save you and me– AS-IS condition. It is His joy to stand us back on our feet, strengthen our feeble legs and wobbly knees so that we might know His joy as our strength to put our lives back together. He’s not looking at the shambles. He’s looking at the heart to reconnect, to rebuild. And it brings Him great joy. Be strengthened in Your God’s joy for you, of you, in you. You are His joy. Now, put on a muscle shirt and start flexin’!
YOUR TURN! In one word, what do you need the God’s joy to strengthen in/for you?
SCRIPTURE(S) REFERENCED ABOVE
Nehemiah 9:36- “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you [God] gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.”