Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fighting Joy -thieves

I never thought I'd be thinking so much about joy, much less writing about it! Most people would say I'm a pleasant person overall, but my close friends know I've got quite the melancholic streak. I chalk it up to my personality, which I think is pretty valid, but the way I battle my bouts of sadness or being overwhelmed by life are totally up to me, no matter how I'm wired. I don't have to let my personality rule, and I can have plenty of joy despite it.

September and October are really challenging months for me. Our two boys play Fall Sports, so I am chauffeur at least four evenings a week, sometimes both for dropping off and picking up the kids. Sometimes I stay for the entire practice (where I usually try to get in a nice walk and some reading or tutor prep), and sometimes I go home to fix dinner while my husband handles the pick-up. Add in two games every Saturday plus some snack-bringing obligations and serving in the Tigard High snack shack on top of all our regular life stuff, and well, it's a recipe for stress.

Last year I had to really cut back on my practice-watching. It was draining me of all joy and motivation. I started to doubt things about my life, my purpose, my investments in others, when none of those things were actually a problem. My full schedule pushed out my joy because I believed I needed more free time, more time for personal endeavors, and less time taking care of everyone else in order to be happy, in order to have a good, worthwhile, joy-filled life. In case you don't know, I was completely wrong.

Today I woke up feeling a similar type of stress. I was tired of people needing me. I was feeling worn out from others wanting a piece of my time and energy. My brain kept working through what caused my oldest son's football team to get so creamed the first half of their game yesterday. Because I have learned that I allow my joy to be stolen (rather than assuming I just don't have any) I started to pray and ask God why I couldn't get my emotions under control.

I said "God, just help me stop worrying over problems that aren't mine!"

Immediately His Spirit spoke to my heart...

"Which ones ARE yours to worry about?"

So funny, right? I actually started laughing and felt so relieved.

The answer is none.

None of the problems I allow into my head are mine to try and figure out. Not because I'm not responsible for anything, and not because I don't have things that need taken care of, but because God already knows what I need. My worry doesn't help Him take care of my problems.

I am a natural logistics person. Give me a problem, an issue, or a system that isn't working right and I can quickly, and usually pretty easily, see what the root of that problem is. And I'm good at finding practical solutions. But joy comes from somewhere else. It is not born out of perfectly worked out solutions. It doesn't live only where there are no problems. Because of Christ, it exists anywhere we allow it to reign. When we let stressful situations and circumstances circle in our minds, we are allowing joy-thieves to enter our hearts and push joy out. Instead, we need to push them out, lock the doors and let them know that they are not welcome.

Photo credit: Renee Fisher

The testimonies of Amy Carmichael and Corrie Ten Boom have really strengthened my resolve to stop letting problems here on earth take the joy that Christ has given me.

In Elizabeth Elliot's book, A Chance To Die, she talks about Amy's perspective on asking for funds. Early in her missionary journey, Amy would sometimes debate whether they should ask for money, or even prayer, for financial gifts. She feared asking for prayer about it would be dropping more clues than necessary. As she grew older, she was more and more convinced that if she truly trusted God, she would not ask others. She fully believed that God knew her needs and that He would tell whoever else needed to know in order to help or provide. And He did, over and over again, reaffirming that God does not need our worry or suggestions. He alone can provide every need.

When Corrie Ten Boom was a young girl, she often rode the train with her father to go and get the "true time" off a clock in another town. If this makes zero sense to you, just try and google why people did this, it's too much to explain here! On one of their train rides, she asked a question about something too mature for her age. Her father said he would have to explain it later, but Corrie was not very content with that answer.

Her father gave her an analogy she never forgot, and neither will I. He asked her to remember at what point during their trip he hands her the train ticket. She responded that it was right before she got on. He explained that God is the same way. We are His children, and we are in His complete care, and that means He will always give us what we need, but it is often right before we need it.

I'm not saying don't ever ask for help, or prayer, or try to be prepared. I'm saying don't spend your time trying to piece out details in your head that God is already lining up for you.

So dear friend, what problem is robbing you of peace, or sleep, or contentment? Do you understand that God knows exactly what your problem is? Do you know He already knows the solution? You can trust that He will give it to you right when you need it. Likely not long before, not definitely not after.

The testimonies of these two women are helping me walk in faith every day. I can trust God with any problem I encounter. It's not "on me" to fix everything; I am only called to obey. When my mind is tempted to dwell on the challenges that might arise or the roadblocks I might encounter, I can close that door and know 100% that God will help me as I need it. It frees me to simply enjoy what I am doing instead of grumpily going through my tasks, my mind swirling in frustration and unknowns.

There is no problem worth your worry. There is no circumstance worth stealing your joy. It's exactly what Satan wants to do and exactly what the Holy Spirit can help us overcome. We can use our time to work, to plan, to deal with situations that arise, but we must never allow it to create chaos inside our hearts and minds. God gives us the power to overcome.

His joy is our redemption, the solution to our biggest problem. And His joy is enough to get us through anything we encounter. We must let it reign and fight anything that tries to take it away.

The bonus I'm finding in all of it is in this little verse, a verse that might not seem that encouraging at first glance.

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

It takes faith to say "I know God will take care of my financial problems, so right now I am going to cook dinner with a smile."

It takes faith to say "I hate that my loved one is in pain, dying, but I know God is here in all of it, and I can comfort them and myself with His love and goodness instead of my anger and frustration."

It takes faith to face a million little problems and still believe that God is there in the midst of it, giving you what you need to be kind, courageous, and generous to those you encounter.

It takes faith to continue obeying in your mundane life, trusting that happily sacrificing your life for the benefit of others will be worth it.

When we deny the joy-thieves of difficulty, pain, doubt, and despair, we are walking in faith. And it pleases God. He rewards us for seeking Him in all of these trials, big or small. Only God could be good enough to give us the solutions to our problems and then reward us for turning to Him! It's kind of over-the-top ridiculous, don't you think?

Today I am grateful that He never gives up on me. When I ask for help to fight depression, sadness, or just general weariness in life, He gives. He gives however much I am willing to receive.

So I encourage you, become willing to receive. Be open to being happy. Be open to joy taking over your dreary day. I know it's a battle, but it is one you will always be glad you fought.

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