Permission to Experience Joy...

Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty Thy glory in my valley.
— The Valley of Vision

In a perfect world…

Do these words even belong in the same line on a page?  The reality is, we fell from perfection long ago, before we ever made our tiny, little, grand entrance into existence.  We fell…hard.  As a result of that fall, we will experience pits, valleys, and hardships, which often feel like the sinking ships of this life.  Can someone throw me a lifesaver…please?  Is anybody tracking with me?  Does anyone even see me?  Is this really what I signed up for?

The more days I live out to completion, the more I realize that one of the few things we can continually count on in this great journey of life is a good trial.  I have come to an understanding, because it has been proven time and time again - great trials precede great things.  It’s as if our Father is looking down, telling us, “Now this is going to hurt, and you might wish you could skip over this part of your story, but in the end, it is for your good…trust me.” All the while assuring us that He will carry our burdens, He will walk by our side the entire time, stay close, and never let go of our hand.  He will not only utilize our circumstances to make His glory known to others, He will use them to transform our hearts to reflect more of Him.  

We are told to ‘count it all as joy’ when we experience ‘trials of various kinds’. (James 1:2)  Notice the ‘when’, meaning we will experience trials if we are following Jesus.  The promise of trials…one of those promises we don't typically repeat to ourselves over and over, or stick up on our mirror for when we need a reminder of those things promised to us.  This promise is not typically the hook drawing the masses down the aisles on Sunday mornings.  When faced with death, job loss, heart-sickness, loneliness, grief, pain, hurt, betrayal, we are to find…joy?  Really?  This seems a little counter-intuitive.  When experiencing hard times, our natural inclination is to respond with anger, question God, run to the quick-fix, or just throw down a giant pity-party.  

One's response to the trial is what marks the difference between a human soul which is fettered to the anchor of their creator.

We were never called to cruise through life, hair blowing in the wind, hands gripped to the steering wheel,  jamming to the latest new worship tunes.  Should our approach not look much different?   We are daily marching into battle, fully dependent on our Saviors leading in the midst of experiencing trials of various kinds.  Trials we can count on, in the very same way we count on the suns rising every single morning.  It is in the trial that the great purpose of God is being accomplished in and through us.  Our circumstance doesn’t inhibit His purpose.  The Lord can use the most horrific of circumstances to refine our souls to reveal His character in our lives in a way we never could have imagined.

It is one thing to expect the coming of trials, another to accept them when they arise, but to give ourselves the permission to experience joy in the midst of them, to me, is the greatest challenge.  In tough circumstances we have a choice…to sit in defeat and wallow in our self-pity while asking the question “why me?” over and over.  Or, we can choose to stand up, face the challenge with full confidence that there is light in the darkness, life in the death, joy in the sorrow, grace in the sin, riches in the poverty and will ultimately be glory in every single valley!  Self-pity is undoubtedly the easy choice.  I once heard it said, “We belittle the life, death and resurrection of Jesus when we sit in our pity party.”  The truth in this statement has changed my world.  Challenging times should cause us to confidently run to Jesus when we are tempted to revert to self-pity.  It has already been finished, the battle is won, the victory is ours...and in this is where we find the anchor for our soul, and our greatest joy.

Time and time again, we will go through the valley kicking and screaming before making our way up the mountain.  We are so inclined to want to bypass the process by which we are most transformed.   The only way out is through, and it is through the trials that we are being refined, sharpened, and in the end brought into a deeper relationship with our creator.  The one who is before all, in all, through all and over all.  He sees you, He does.  He knew about this trial, before it ever came about, and you know what?  He still has your best interest at heart.  

We must see our circumstances through God’s love instead of, as we are prone to do, seeing God’s love through our circumstances.
— Trusting God, Gary Bridges

We must allow ourselves to experience fullness of joy in all circumstances.  May we, like Paul…”Count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:8)

I wish you joy!  Whether today you are on the mountain or in the valley, I wish you joy in the moment and the strength to endure!  Fight for joy, give yourself permission to lead a joy-filled life in the ups and in the downs.  When you are in the fire, let faith assure you of the things hoped for and convict your heart of the things unseen.  In the overall picture, these troubles are only for a moment. 

I once heard Beth Moore say, 'Jesus knew He had to die and yet didn’t bypass the trial'.  He knew it was only through death that we could be made alive…the greatest trial anyone could ever endure was that which has brought us eternal life. The perfect world is already, but not yet.  When we move on from this life to the next, may we be shining brighter because our joy has increased with every single step knowing He has never left our side.