My heart hurts and feels bruised by disappointments and relationships. I trudge through the same routine over and over again. I’m weary of white. Of the threat of water in my house if I wash a load of clothes or use the shower. The feeling of failure looms over my ability or inability to wife and mother well.
It’s in these moments when I need my relationship with my Father God, even if I’ve been distant with him. Friendships have felt dangerous due to recent relationship rejections. And I hold myself together by sheer will and search for joy.
You develop a friendship only to realize weeks or years later that it was false. And realize that it’s like a trick pack of gum kids use on one another and wonder if relationships are worth it. But as difficult as relationships are, we need them to develop joy in our lives.
Partly because we’re instructed to bear one another’s burdens, to share sorrows as well as joys. Our lives need relationships even when friends bruise our hearts. I’m drawn to people like a moth to a flame even while I toy with the idea of disavowing future relationships.
I love people. I want to know if you’re a morning or night person or if you like to shop or hate it or if you’re a hopeful pessimist or a realistic optimist. What sorrows and joys have you lived and what has scarred you and how have you healed. Do you like coffee or tea or neither?
You’re interesting before I even meet you, but I wrestle with fear of you too. Rejection is a possible outcome.
Fear and curiosity tussle within me. Sometimes fear wins and I sacrifice myself on the altar of your approval. And other times curiosity wins and the security of God’s love propels me forward. And sometimes I move forward with fear dogging every step.
Joy and Our Walk with Christ
Joy and our relationships relate to one another. We get to live this life as a believer and follower of Christ in community, not in isolation. And it’s in community that we learn to choose right actions, to temper our responses to reflect Christ, and to share the joy of the Lord.
We contribute joy to another’s life when we refresh others, and when we live our lives in ways that honor the teaching we received about the Lord.
Paul and John write about this throughout the New Testament. He references how his hearers bring him joy when they give themselves to the whole of Jesus’ teaching and their lives change.
We bring joy to our mentors, friends, teachers, and spiritual directors when we choose God’s way over ours. His ways don’t always make sense, but when trusted and implemented, bring about joy and lasting change that we could never accomplish on our own.
Who’s teaching have you benefitted from? Do you have someone in your life from whom you receive spiritual direction and teaching? Bring joy to them by living your life according to God’s standards and righteous ways.
Joy spreads. As you learn from a sound biblical teacher, you teach others as you live your life. Whether you realize it or not, there is someone who learns from you. You need others who are a few steps ahead of you and a few steps behind you. And this joy that comes by living lives that reflect the love of Christ become like the spreading ripples of a pebble dropped in a pond.
Relationships: difficult and painful, but oh so necessary. Joy: complex and simple, but contagious.
And just as we affect joy in other people’s lives by how we live our lives, we also bring joy to others as we refresh each other.
Joy and Refreshment
Refresh indicates a restoration, a renewal, and a revival. Do you need your spirit revived? Is life dragging you along and you question whether or not there’s more than this, whatever this may be?
Extend joy by sitting with someone in their sorrow and rejoicing with them in their triumphs. Offer the refreshment joy brings by extending kindness and mercy, overlooking an offense, and extending forgiveness.
When we reach out to someone, our hearts receive refreshment, and the joy overflows and affects the lives around us. We sit with someone in sorrow and we rejoice with someone in their triumphs. Refreshing others brings joy to our hearts.
Let’s hold to the truth that joy comes from a relationship with its source: God. But as a byproduct of receiving that joy, we get to refresh others and be blessed ourselves.
Consider how your life affects someone else’s and take a small step to bring them joy.
Pray: “Lord Jesus, you are my rock, my comfort, my everything, and my joy. Let me live a life worthy of your calling. Lord, I surrender my will and my ways and submit to your transforming power. Let your joy flow from you and to others as I live for you.” Amen.
I’m good at bravado, but not so much at living brave. I know how to stand tall and smile with the best of them, but inside I’m cowering, hiding tears, insecure, wondering if I belong or even if I’m wanted.
I know verses. I know that if I’m full of God then there’s no room for anything else. I know that my song is God’s song. I know that he is my refuge, my shield, and my fortress. I know he holds me close and sings songs over me. I know he calls me chosen, beloved, secure, approved, and beautiful. I know all these things and I was so mad at myself for the disconnect between my head and my heart.
I’m one of those people who have a tendency to save things. I save those extra buttons that come with new shirts, but don’t ask me where I put them because I don’t know. I save gifts I’ve been given, even when I’ve outgrown the use of the item. I save gift bags to reuse, but not tissue paper because that’s just too much work. I save cards with heartfelt handwritten words from friends so when I forget my worth, I have a reminder.
Some would call me a packrat, and I would agree. I had the messiest room as a kid and underneath my bed was the best place to lose items and never to see them again. As an adult, my house might appear different, but if you opened closet doors and peeked under my bed, you would see I haven’t changed too much. I keep thinking I should get organized and clean things up and throw things away, but it’s hard.
I can’t seem to sustain any system for long so I end up on these purging binges. This might seem awesome–the crazy packrat lady is actually throwing things away–but I take it too far. I do get rid of things I don’t need, but I get rid of things I still need. I can’t seem to find the right combination of throwing things away and keeping things. And if I put something in a “safe” place it’s as good as thrown away because I can’t remember where I put it.
I see these tendencies in my heart as well. I keep behaviors and patterns of thought that should have been thrown out of my life. I cling to my belief that maybe this love of God is really too good to be true, and I might just wake up and be thrown away so I hold myself back from him.
But this holding of myself back has consequences as well.
“The most important [commandement] is, ‘Here, O Isreal: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 NIV
When I hang onto disbelief, it’s hard to love God with everything I am. When I cling to resentment, bitterness, or unforgiveness, loving him and others is not possible because these things stand in the way of giving myself totally and completely to Him.
I’m learning to live aware of the state of my heart because I know that resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness harms me more than it harms anyone else. It also makes it difficult to fulfill the second commandment: “Love my neighbor as myself.”
When I’m judgmental of myself, I judge others.
When I’m annoyed with myself, I’m annoyed with other’s.
When I’m disgusted over my own actions, it’s easy to be disgusted over someone else’s actions.
How I feel about myself reflects on how well I love others. If I don’t love myself, I can’t love my neighbor. If we could see ourselves the way God sees us–through eyes of love, then loving our neighbors would be easy.
But it’s not. We know our weaknesses. We know our flaws. We know this journey to holiness is a lifelong journey, and we know the battle between the sin nature and the spirit nature rages within.
Loving ourselves has to start with loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and body. This is where we learn that we are lovable because as we love God we begin to see things his way. I know I’m flawed. I know perfection is a myth. I know my weaknesses, but I know I’m strong when I trust in God. I know my flaws can become facets that reflect his glory. I know that in him I am made complete.
If I can look at myself in a mirror and remember these things, I can actually love my neighbor well. Beth Moore writes in Believing God, “My obedience flowed directly from my faith to believe I was who God said I was even when I didn’t feel like it.”
There are times I don’t feel like I am who God says I am, but I choose to believe it because I want to obey his commands of loving him with everything that is within me and loving my neighbor as myself.
Loving myself doesn’t mean that I get to go buy the latest pair of shoes I have my eyes on, or the purse that’s simply amazing. It doesn’t mean being selfish with my “me” time. It doesn’t mean that I get what I want when I want it. Loving myself doesn’t mean I put my needs and wants above others.
Loving myself means embracing the truth of what God says about me so that God can use me to reveal himself to others.
Loving myself means allowing God to transform me into a truer reflection of himself and going smaller so that he can go bigger.
When I struggle with loving my neighbors, the struggle can usually be traced back to my thought-life about myself. When I’m rattle with insecurity, I’m ruled by fear in my relationships. When I’m overtaken by a tongue that throws sharp darts, it’s usually because my thought-life is filled with sharp and unkind words.
The struggle to love is true and real. It’s evidenced all around us in our world, our communities, and our homes. But what if we all determined to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies, and let him change us from the inside out and to love ourselves as he loves us–beloved children, made for a purpose that only we can fill, righteous, holy, and reflectors of him to this world. If we did, loving our neighbor as ourselves might become a little easier.