Right now I’m going through a Lent study with She Reads Truth to help my heart grasp a better understanding into the deep wonder of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection. I’m wanting a solid gratitude for what my Savior has done and His immense love for me. To know Him and be known by Him is my heart’s desire.
The Lent devotional is packed with Scripture each day to meditate on. Sprinkled throughout are recipes, of all things, and hymns. I came across Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, and the third verse is what struck me most:
“Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall,
If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.”
Sometimes I catch myself striving to “be good” outwardly, while the sin of self-reliance spreads like a cancer. When I find that I am secretly still trying to earn my salvation by doing good works, my heart needs an about-face. Doing good things alone are most definitely not wrong but when my motivation becomes fear of losing my salvation, trying to climb God’s ladder of approval, or dare I say it, win the praise of man? I just need to stop.
I do this with joy too. When I base my joy on the superficial, trying to control the circumstances and create a harmonious atmosphere, sooner or later the rug gets pulled out from under me as I’m snapped back into reality. This is because I’ve skewed the meaning of what real joy is. Deep-seated joy is two-fold: everlasting joy and sanctifying joy.
King David wrote in the Psalms, “in Your Presence there is fullness of joy”, which means joy is placed within every believer because His Spirit dwells in us and we are forever in His Presence. We are gifted with God Himself in everlasting joy. That is imperishable, something we will carry with us into eternity.
Sanctifying joy is the work of the Spirit in me. It doesn’t come naturally. I tend to have a deep feely, introspective, serious business face most days. Sometimes it is easier to say, “the sky is falling!” than to just sit and enjoy the sunset. But you know what? I can still pursue joy even with my kind of personality because God has given us the oil of joy – Himself.
Through reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts devotional I am training my heart to have eyes of joy. Looking for the everyday graces all around me even when it’s hard. Then I can return thanks to the Maker of those wonderful ways He has chosen to show His love to me that day- big and small. It is a practiced discipline of regarding the ordinary through the lens of thanksgiving. All circumstances (depression, sickness, infertility, a difficult job, a scary life transition, sleepless nights, an autistic child) are lovingly placed before us so that we can train ourselves to seek the Lord, trust Him, and pray like crazy.
And those sanctifying moments to choose joy instead of sorrow? That seems like pie in the sky talk but it doesn’t have to be. When the job interview bombs, the washing machine breaks, or a loved one dies, real life happens that can rock us to the core. You know what else it can do for us? One of the most gracious things possible – an opportunity to humble us once more proving that we were never in control of anything. And if I can still give thanks to a very good God in humility even when I don’t have all the puzzle pieces figured out – there lies an opportunity to grab hold of pure, unadulterated joy. It is when you and I come low that the Lord raises us up in grace.
Sometimes my heart resembles the Grand Canyon and joy is a tiny almost invisible stream at the bottom. It is in those moments where I gently remind myself that I must decrease as He increases in my life. Less of April, and more of Jesus. Ann compares running water to our spiritual state, noting:
“Down, always down, water runs, always looking for yet lower and lower places to flow. I watch water run and think spiritual water must flow like this … always seeking the lowest places […] I must go lower. I tell myself this, watching water run. That whenever I am parched and dry, I must go lower with the water and I must kneel low in thanks.
The river of joy flows down to the lowest places.
And here on my knees I can see.”*
Grace upon grace,
Go Deeper: Psalm 16:11; Psalm 40
*Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts devotional p. 109