Thursday, November 8, 2018

Can I Consider All of This Joy?

Marsh Creek State Park
I’ve been avoiding God. For three weeks or so, I’ve just been phoning it in where our relationship is concerned - doing the bare minimum. Why? Excellent question. I’m not entirely sure. I’m sitting beside a lake today (in my car because the wind is fierce, and hello, my hair) trying to figure it out.

When I left the house today, I asked God where He wanted me to go, and a picture of this lake popped into my head. I’ve come here before to get some peace and sort through things. I just stare at the water, try to calm my mind, and ask God what He needs to say to me. I don’t hear any audible voices or anything, but the absence of my usual daily distractions does allow me to pray, recall Scripture, and feel a renewed peace.

Anyway, today, as I sat there and asked God why I had been avoiding Him and what it was we needed to work out, a Bible verse very clearly came to mind: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). I immediately bristled and got prickly with God.

“No. I’m not ready to count it all joy.” - referring here to my many-years-long battle with brain injury and now struggles with walking and back pain.

But the verse was now on repeat in my head. Is this verse, this concept, why I’ve been avoiding Him? Did I know that this verse represented His new goal for me? That bar is too high. I can’t hit it. Shoot - I don’t even want to hit it.


There’s the problem. I have no interest in calling this trial a "joy". I have no intention of obeying this Bible verse.

Talk about an eye-opener! Serious heart check moment.

Let me insert some clarification here. These posts have become a way for me to process my thoughts, pray, sort through Scripture, and figure out what God is saying to me. It’s my hope that by sharing the things God is teaching me - in very raw and honest words - someone else can be encouraged to seek answers and chase after what God is saying to her heart. As I journal my questions, doubts, and frustrations, my desire is that someone else will feel free to truly open her heart to God and trust Him to be gentle with all the broken parts. I firmly believe that Jesus wants us to come to Him just as we are - with questions, fears, doubts, frustrations, etc. So I’m putting all of mine out here and being open about the process of letting God work.

In the book of Mark (chapter 9), we read an account of a man who brings his son to Jesus for healing. The man says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus says, “All things are possible for one who believes”. The man cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

That’s how I feel! I want to obey; help my disobedience!

It is my heart’s desire to obey and honor God. I want to! But to call this journey with brain injury “joy” is killing me. My spirit is in absolute opposition to it. My heels are dug in! But we don’t get to pick and choose scripture. That’s not how this works.

At this point, I spent a long time looking into James 1. Maybe somewhere I could find a wise Bible scholar who could show me what the Bible meant or how to obey this particular verse. Maybe more knowledge was what I needed. I looked up commentaries. I looked into word definitions. I learned that historians think that the author was Jesus’ brother. None of it told me how to count it all joy. So I stared at the lake and kept praying.

“Lord, I want to obey you. Please show me how.”

An author and speaker came to mind: Joni Eareckson Tada. Her story is one of honoring God in spite of becoming a quadriplegic. She is now dealing with chronic pain on top of her paralysis. I decided to google her. I could go on and on about the things I found, (if you ever want to be inspired by someone who has figured out how to live a life of joy in the midst of trials, y'all should look her up!) but here is the big gem: instead of the “how” to count my circumstances as joy, what if I looked for a “why”? So I looked for reasons for joy and found some!

Because of my situation, people are watching - my kids, folks in real life, and people on social media. Because people are watching, they will see how I respond. Because God gives me strength, I am mostly able to respond with positivity and laughter instead of sadness and despair. That gap between my natural response to this mess and the positive way I am able to react because of His strength can point those who are watching to Him! I can be a feature film about God’s kindness, and others can see Him as I navigate through this trial. That idea DOES bring me joy. That puts a huge smile in my heart.

So let’s wrap this up:

  • Brain damage - not a joy
  • Trouble walking - no joy there
  • Daily struggles just to accomplish basic tasks - nope. No joy
  • The opportunity to rely on God’s strength, to ask Him to guide my heart and mind as I respond to these trials and show His light to the world through positivity and laughter - YES! A major reason for joy!

So, starting today, I’m going to count my opportunity to show off His strength as a joy. Well, I’m gonna try. I'm bound to mess it up. But God has proven Himself to be infinitely patient as I try again. And again :-)

And I'm ordering Joni Eareckson Tada’s book “A Place Of Healing” this very minute!


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