God is joyous and filled with joy over you. He rejoices and is glad in you. Do you feel that joy? Or do you look at yourself in the mirror and still see a lost little sheep wandering, taking this path and that path, getting more and more lost?
When life or people or circumstances tell us that we’re not worth someone’s glance or kindness or mercy, it’s easy to believe that God is like the darkness that we see around us. We begin to internalize a life without joy, and a life that leads us to believe that following God down salvation’s road is one of trial and suffering, lacking joy.
My heart broke when a woman told me that she didn’t want to know God anymore than she already did because of what he might ask her to walk through. Her declaration rested on misconceptions about God’s character: That he is a joyless taskmaster rather than a joy-filled, strength-giving, compassionate God.
Misconceptions about God’s character will lead us down a path that’s joyless and lonely. This world overflows with suffering. Everyday someone loses a loved one, a marriage falls apart, kids and parents betray each other, and instead of finding comfort in God’s character, they run to earthly comforts.
The greatest struggle we might need to overcome is how God can simultaneously be joyous and just. Filled with joy and sorrow. Sorrow over his lost ones and joy over his found ones. But maybe it’s not so much as understanding as accepting and experiencing.
We have a saying in my home that if Mama put something away so it’s “safe” that it’s so safe it’s actually lost because I never remember the “safe” places. Several years ago, I needed my marriage license as one of five documents proving to the Iowa Motor Vehicle Department that I am indeed Jessica Marie Van Roekel.
But I couldn’t find it. I searched drawers and cupboards and nooks and crannies. I’m allergic to filing cabinets so I keep ours in the attic. But I trudged up the flight of stairs anyway and pushed open the trapdoor to the attic and glared at the black box.
I rummaged and shuffled and dealt with unruly metal drawers that refused to slide like butter to close. I wrestled those drawers and dealt with the squeaking metal that has the same affect on me as nails on a chalkboard has to you. But for all that annoyance I found no marriage certificate.
Still undaunted I kept looking. For 3 hours. Life stopped. I dumped drawers and rummaged through cupboards. The “safe” place held it’s location secret no matter where I looked. Meanwhile at the courthouse, and unbeknownst to me, my husband decided to have a copy of our license reprinted.
In the meantime, I re-checked that nasty old filing cabinet and found the missing license on the floor of the drawer, underneath the hanging files. I skipped downstairs with joy in my heart just as my husband called to tell me that I could stop my frantic searching. So we now have two copies of our marriage license and both are safe and found. Not safe and lost.
My point? We rejoice when we find what we thought was lost. I felt a little like the parable of the women who lost her coin as I searched for my marriage license.
A long time ago, in a perfect garden, joy, peace, and God and man meeting face to face was lost. And in the ensuing centuries, mankind experienced enmity with God until Jesus’ work of death and resurrection on the cross. God carries joy and sorrow. Sorrow over broken relationship and joy over restored relationship.
God rejoices. It’s part of his character and one we need to embrace. God doesn’t lead and guide us with a stern countenance, but he leads us with joy. He tells us to go forth with songs of gladness. If joy wasn’t an integral part of his character than why do we read so many references encouraging us to rejoice, to experience joy? To know God as joyous is to grow in our relationship with him.
Consider the Parable of the Lost Son. Aren’t we all lost sons and daughters at one time? Haven’t we lost our way and ran away from our God rather than to him? The joy the father felt as he finally saw his faraway son is the kind of joy that God feels for you when you come to your senses and come back home.
No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord–whether you’re like my friend and find yourself adrift in misperceptions about God or resting in the delightful fact that God is rejoicing over you this moment, may your eyes be lit from within because of your preciousness in God’s sight.
He see you and rejoices. He oozes joy because of you. If joy were sparkles, you’d be shimmering like a glitter-bomb.
Remember that thin place? It starts here: Embracing the truth that God is joyous. That he is a laughing kind of Lord who knows gladness when he looks at you because you bring joy to his heart.
Oh friend, how he loves you. How he wants you to know that he abounds with joy and gladness because you are his own.
Rest in that truth. Live from that knowledge. You are God’s joy.
Read Luke 15. Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal God’s heart of joy for you.
The joy series will attempt to uncover different aspects of joy. We will explore the joy giver, joy as fruit, joy-news, joy for others, joy-endurance, joy-strength, and how Jesus completes joy.
However, we live in the tension of not home yet and living fully present in our very real, very specific to us here and nows. These tensions can cause us to chase after things that don’t satisfy us or to embrace the false belief that misery equates holy.
But we must learn to navigate this life in fullness and abundance while still being aware that this life is not our true home.
It’s a thin place of beauty if I can remember to stay in it. But it seems too easy to fall the to one side where I embrace this world’s pleasures a little too enthusiastically or to lean to the other extreme where I’m too “heavenly minded” to be much good in the here and now.
That thin place is the place where we grasp a true understanding of grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and it’s the power that transforms us. The thin place is where joy and sorrow live in harmony; fear and courage run hand in hand; and faith and doubt wrestle.
The Lament Series walked us through the process of expressing our true heartfelt emotions and thoughts in ways that bring us to the Giver of Life. The Refuge Series taught us that God wants us to run to him even in the midst of excruciating disappointment and doubt.
In the joy series we will cover what joy is, what it’s not, and what we do when we don’t feel joyous and how it all relates to the thin place of walking in abundance while living as lights in this world.
Did you know that joy is referenced 150 times in the Bible and rejoice over 200 times? Combined, that makes for just about one verse a day to feed our hearts a steady diet of joy. And then if we add in the synonyms for joy, such as delight, glad, and blessed, we begin to see an overarching theme of joy woven throughout the entirety of the word of God from Genesis to Revelation.
Imagine what your life would be like if joy was the silken thread that tied all your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows together. What would it be like to take a bird’s eye view of your life’s tapestry? Would you see that silky golden joy-thread woven throughout? Would it look a little like mine: scarce in some areas and abundant in others?
Joy is not contingent on circumstances. Joy is wholly contingent on God and our response to him. Joy reminds me of the velveteen rabbit whose sorrow brought him long lasting “realness”. Real joy.
Your joy doesn’t have to be some contrived smile that only rests on your cheeks and never makes it to your heart. Joy is much more than an emotion. It’s complex and beautiful and mysterious.
The next few weeks as we explore joy in the biblical sense and God’s going to reveal himself to us in new ways. He’s going to show us how to live in that “thin place” of being in the world, but not of it, and how joy is the key to this place of abundant living.
The lament arc takes us from despair to release to hope and to praise because it allows for the full expression of emotions this life creates. Our responses to our life experiences can drive us towards God but when we tuck our emotions into a chest in the depths of the attic we rob ourselves of a deeper authenticity with Christ.
As we explore the lost language of lament, we discover a freedom in approaching God to receive the grace he longs to bestow. Our hearts swell with faith, hope and love as we realize that God gave us this language to communicate with him and that he longs to hear our hearts.
We cannot believe that lament is merely a venting session of all the ugly that hides in our heart. Venting the full breadth of our emotions without biblical exhortation results in a gossipy, negative view of our struggles and the people in it.
I’ve been a journal-er for numerous years, and several years ago as I read through an old journal, I cringed at the judgmental, negative, self-righteous way I sounded. I had the full expression of my emotions and crying out to God for help written in black and white, but the confession of trust, the petition for help, and any type of praise was noticeably absent.
My lament felt despairing rather than hopeful.
My penned words made me want to cast that journal in the nearest burn pile.
Instead, it’s tucked into the bookshelf, flat against the back with other books placed in front of it, spines lined up like little soldiers in a row. I didn’t throw it away because it’s my reminder of the importance of learning the biblical lament.
Praise is the final piece in the biblical lament.
We read, “Praise the Lord” or “Bless the Lord” or “I will offer my praise in the assembly” and we wonder how can that be possible when our lives fall apart.
Part of the biblical lament is preaching to your own soul. And in the praising God for his goodness because he’s faithful and kind and true, we minister to our own hearts.
Let’s read David’s word in Psalm 31:19-24
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
David ends his lament with words of praise. He praises God for his abundant goodness and reminds himself to keep fearing the Lord and finding refuge in him.
Do you need this reminder? It’s far too easy to let your circumstances dictate your responses, but what if the next time life tried to melt your heart like wax and cause you to place your fear in the unknowns of “what if”, you tried praise?
One of the Hebrew words for praise is Towdah and it renders as a “confession of thanks and praise for what God is going to do.” We cannot confuse what we wish God to do based on our agenda, but we must base our praise on what God is going to do because of his character.
His character is solid. He doesn’t forsake you because he is faithful. He brings light to your darkness because he is light. He gives good gifts because he is a good Father. He brings you strength because he is full of joy.
Praising God based on his character is what allows our heart to grab hold of courage. Praising God in our lament reminds us that God is God and we are not and that the whole world rests in his hands and on his shoulders. Not ours.
As we surrender control over the outcome of our situations, we turn to the language of biblical lament and we find hope and courage for our weary hearts.
Ending our lament with praise points our hearts to our good, good Father and fills us with hope.
Read Psalm 31 and use it as a model of lament in your current situation. Start with the cry, move into expression of pain, confess your trust, petition God to act on your behalf, and then praise him for what he is able to do.