“Pure joy is found in a life of growth, not in a life of ease,” writes Douglas D. Webster in Finding Spiritual Direction. Tough words to live by in a world that values comfort above else.
Webster uses a study of the book of James to provide a basis for the essential practices of anyone wanting to provide spiritual direction to others who seek to grow in maturity. He sees spiritual directors as “physicians of the soul” (14), as “parents” (16) and as “farmers who love the land and understand their work.” 171
Webster also talks about prayer, “Prayer sustains the resistance of the soul against an undertow of evil . . . Prayer does not tidy up life and arrange it in labeled folders. It focuses and intensifies life. Prayer orients our thinking, directs our actions and prepares us for God’s work.” 40
So, here is the question: When given an option, do you choose a life of growth or a life of ease? If you choose a life of growth, you should also understand that growth usually requires that we move through resistance as we encounter suffering and hardship. At the end of growth lies joy as Webster says above.
As Christians, most of us understand that joy is more than a feeling and is not necessarily to be equated with a smile on our face! But, what if joy was a place? When people commented on the joy in Damaris Zehner, even though she felt anything but joyful she began to wonder if joy was not more of a place.
“I concluded that joy isn’t a feeling or a thing we have; it’s almost more of a place, one that we’re invited to enter into and abide in. Joy is the keeping of God’s commandments; it is faithfulness in discharging duties. It’s the result of endurance, and also the reason for it.”
Reminds me of a post I made a few weeks back when I suggested that obedience turns pain into joy.
Zehner quotes Hebrews 12:1-2; James 1:1-2 and Psalm 125:5-6 in support of her comments about joy which I appreciate. I think what Zehner is saying is that joy is the place of obedience (my words, not hers). In obedience, we will be content, we will be joyful, we will be in the will of God.
But, what grabbed my attention was Zehner’s allusion to the weight of people’s expectations.
They all wanted to know about my work overseas and my spiritual life. Many of them presumed my spiritual life was triumphant – I was a missionary, after all.
Does anyone have a story or comment out there on the presumption of missionary spirituality? Please share them with us.
Another post on missionary spirituality seems to be in order!
Great post on the comma of grace from Stuff Christians Like that fits well with this post. Luke 22:32, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” As Jonathan says about the Luke 22 , it is a “loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.” Be sure to read his full post.
Grace is why we should be willing to read and pray Psalm 32!
How right life is when
- my sin
- my iniquity and
- my transgressions
- are forgiven
- covered up
- not counted against me
Acknowledgement of my desperate need for
Pain and suffering when hiding
- my physical body wastes away
- I groan all day long
- God’s hand is heavy on me
- my strength is dried up
Thankfulness for God
- offering prayers
- providing a hiding place
Prayer: Help me not to be stubborn or to stray
Promise—steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD
- Be glad in YHWH
- Rejoice righteous ones
- Shout for joy you upright ones
What would happen if each of us who is a follower of Jesus Christ made a daily decision to rejoice and be glad in God and to say to ourselves and to all who will listen, “Great is the LORD!”?
Even though I started a new Psalm today, I was drawn back to Psalm 40 from last week. Towards the end of the week last week, I discovered the beautiful truth of Psalm 40: 16-17.
“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
May those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD.”
As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay O my God” ESV
Psalm 40 is a Psalm in which David is expressing his trust in God despite many struggles and much opposition. In verse 16, it appears that he made the following decision, “I am going to rejoice and be glad in you and say Great is the LORD!” And in the Psalm, he states this as an exhortation to those of us who say that we are trusting God.
I find this both a challenge and a liberating truth. My circumstances and struggles may not have changed but since I am seeking God above all else, I can make the decision to to rejoice and be glad in Him! When I focus on enjoying God and taking delight in Him, it is interesting how I seem to have less energy, less attention and less time to spend thinking about my own problems and issues. The struggle may continue but somehow I have changed. And then, as one who loves God’s salvation, I proclaim continually GREAT IS THE LORD. Great is the LORD, Great is the LORD, Great is the LORD.
Here is a challenge. For the next week, let us be intentional by daily (hourly?) stopping to rejoice and be glad in God and to say continually to ourselves and to others, Great is the LORD.
Today, I thought of another practical help–begin giving thanks! There is probably a difference between rejoicing and giving thanks but I think that when I start giving thanks, I start rejoicing and then suddenly I find that I am glad in God. Actually, in our home church last week, we discovered that thanksgiving can also be used as a weapon against the sins of the flesh in Eph 5:1-4. See verse 4 to see why we thought that. You could also see 1 Thess 5:16-18; Phil 1:18-19 and 4:10-13.
Great quote here from CS Lewis seen on ThePoint
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory, 26)
I don’t know what God has in mind for me but at least he is consistent with his communication. I am just trying to get through this process but maybe there is something more for me.
Yesterday, there was the question from John 1:35ff, “What are you seeking?” Ouch–fame, success, respect, significance–maybe not so good eh? And as I have been focusing on Psalm 128 this week, it is quite clear that as we maintain a fear of God, he delights to bless the work of our hands, it shall go well with you. But, the fear of God comes first, the total surrender of everything before him–including my dissertation?
And then my wife sent me this article from Breakpoint about turning drudergy into worship. Come on! I just read a dissertation today in which the guy said someone told him to “just finish it” but maybe that is not for me?
Catherine Larson writes in a breakpoint article on January 6, 2010
“turn every act, no matter how small, into an opportunity to serve God and worship Him through the work of your hands—no matter how seemingly “secular” the work is that you find yourself called to do. . . there is no task, no matter how seemingly insignificant or rote, that cannot be transformed into worship when the heart is inclined to give that act unto God as a spiritual act of worship.
Okay already but we are talking about something supernatural happening. Hmmm, maybe that is the point?
Got the above title from a post by John Piper called 10 Resolutions for Mental Health, a reflection on Psalm 19. Following are my four favorites:
At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities.
I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.
I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic” existence.