I told a friend recently that maybe I should apologize to the world for the COVID pandemic. You see I had for years been praying to God for patience and joy to be cornerstones of my life. I thought if I just tried really hard at not doing certain behaviors I would succeed at this task. While I had found some success in listening to God and obeying when He asked me to take certain actions, I bucked and kicked at fully surrendering myself to Him. And then the pandemic came upon us.
As most of us experienced, our lives were thrown into chaos. Some people almost completely shut down. Loved ones lost not only their jobs and communion with family and friends, but their very lives themselves. We were placed in a state of intense fear and uncertainty. Where I live the government restrictions became egregious, almost to the state of Marshall Law. People were afraid to leave their homes. In some areas you could be fined over $1,000 just for sitting in your parked car on the street next to the beach. In another, the city “outlawed” people from driving up to senior care facilities and waving at them from their windows. Despair, anger, fear, was thick in the air whenever you made the allowed trip to the grocery store. And boy was I angry.
I became angry with the media for putting out confusing messages. At government officials who chastised us for wearing masks then not wearing masks. At neighbors who jumped to the other side of the street as though we each were walking around with deadly leprosy. I despaired over my church closing indefinitely and not seeming to care of the state of their members. I wanted to rage on social media, to my friends and my husband. Discord, not joy, was my refuge. While each day I spent hours doing my various Bible studies no less! I told my Bible study ladies, “I’m a great Christian when I’m at my house, until I walk out the front door.”
Then one day my husband, the chief operations person for a group of Alzheimer’s care facilities, came home looking completely undone. The exhaustion on his face confirmed his first words to me, “That’s it. I can’t do this anymore.” The long days and nights keeping his residents and staff safe while managing the ever-changing governmental rules had taken its toll. I realized he needed joy not discord from me. He didn’t need to hear me complaining at dinner about the latest news announcement. He didn’t need to feel my anger over something that happened at the grocery store. No, he needed me to be a mirror of the Holy Spirit.
“Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6
So, my true journey of seeking joy began thanks to the pandemic. It was a test for many of us Christians. I knew my past failures meant a new approach was needed. One that was Holy Spirit directed. We can no better wish for, pressure ourselves, think into action, joy than a tree can try really hard to make cherries. But what does a cherry tree do in order to create that beautiful fruit? It allows its very essence, it’s holy purpose to do its work inside the roots, trunk, branches, leaves and blossoms. Effortlessly in full submission to its Creator.
“A Christian new birth brings a change made in the views of his mind and relish of the heart so that the regenerate person seeks his interest and happiness in God.”Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections
You see, when we seek real change from the ugliness this world grows in us it means we seek to become who God intended us to be. People close to Him, loving Him and being immensely loved by Him. It’s no wonder “love” is listed first as a fruit of the Spirit. Without it, the rest would be impossible. In researching Christian joy, I discovered these three characteristics of a joy-filled life in full bloom.
1. Submission: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
This submission is not slave to master as some non-Christians like to portray. No, it’s a loving mentor, teacher, parent who sincerely knows and wants the best for us. But unlike those relationships we never grow out of needing the Lord to guide us. He just guides us through more difficult and more beautiful experiences. His loving omniscience is where we must put our trust.
2. Seek to Glorify God’s Will: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
With each word we speak, each action we take, even every thought it should be with turning ourselves over to God in worship. When we wake in the morning, prayer sets us on the right path in seeking ways to glorify Him to our family, friends, co-workers and strangers. In other words, the old saying, “What would Jesus do?” should be on our minds in conversations with the Spirit throughout our day.
3. Seek God’s Glorious Beauty: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15.
Jonathan Edwards’ theological focus through the entirety of his life was God is the foundation of beauty. Nature doesn’t exist for itself but for the glorification of God. I took up a challenge to think on God every 30 minutes earlier this year. Whether in my car, cooking dinner, shopping, I stop for a minute, look around and thank God for the amazing creation around me. The beautiful sky or quenching rain. The child’s laughter nearby or even the opportunity to sit in traffic so I could listen to the rest of a podcast. He is all around us in full color and glory, especially during our trials. Praise Him!
Friend, our joy comes from the love God has shown us with the work His son has already done for us. It comes from the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us. The blossom? The fruit? That’s the work He is doing through us for all the world to see.
2 thoughts on “Joy In Our Obedience”
What a journey we have been on and I am so blessed to be doing this with you!
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It’s imperfect progress 🥰