“Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”
(Isaiah 51:11 NLT)
Happy New Year to all and to all a year of cheer! Nice little rhyme, right? Too bad life doesn’t always make it easy to sit in cheerfulness! I don’t know about you, but I went into 2019 with Great Expectations! Literally. I wrote about it and learned about it, yet with each passing month of 2019, new obstacles, new challenges and new circumstances pushed me to the brink of myself! Little did I know that when I asked to see God’s Power move in my life, it
would bring me to my weakest point! It was in this space that I learned that the “everlasting joy” in this scripture was possible with a personal relationship with the Lord!
First, and foremost, I DO wish everyone a year of blessings and breakthroughs! I hope that just like this scripture, we will all return to our friends, families, work, and places of worship singing and full of joy! I hope and pray that Joy and Gladness will fill all of the dark and sad spaces!
Still, even now, I know of friends who have lost loved ones on Christmas Day and others who went into surgery. Even my own Mom was one of three people who lost a four-legged furry family member in the past week! With that knowledge, it’s hard to believe that “joy everlasting” is even possible. Should we fear and shrink back in 2020, afraid of the difficulties certainly looming ahead? Or can we leap into the New Year with an outlook of Love and Learning? As my son sits next to me, it is clear that the only choice that I can make for my own family is to Fight with the FAITH that is possible to move mountains and make dry bones dance!
So, how do we get from where we are to what God has for us? Notice that I said “God has FOR us.” God is Good! He is so GOOD beyond the goodness that we would have for ourselves! In fact, Lamentations says that:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope
in him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24 NLT, emphasis mine)
One way to start stepping in the direction of the everlasting joy is get to know HIS CHARACTER! You can spend time in God’s Word, talking with God, and thanking Him for what you have now and what you will have in the future. You don’t have to “have it all together” to meet with our Maker! In fact, the more vulnerable and broken you are, the easier it is to be honest with God. Trust me, HE IS BIGGER than anything you can throw His way!
You see, I grew up knowing God only as the “Truth Judge,” but my image of this “judge” had no mercy at all. I had to be perfect, or I couldn’t be in His presence. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am far from perfect! I say things that aren’t nice, my patience (while growing) can be short, and I get stuck in the need for perfection. Add in some daily difficulties in life, and I was flat-out afraid of God. I didn’t want Him to ruin my perfectly fun life! (or so I thought).
Then, as I started to work through the grief of a pending divorce seven years ago, I got mad at this God. The insults I slung God’s way (before I took the time to get to know His Character) are so bad that I will not write them on this page! Surprisingly to me, God’s own Grace and Mercy just waited for me! While I threw my tantrums, God gave me time. At the end of all of the World’s solutions that were not doing me any good, I found God. I sat and I wept, I complained and I gave up. As I gave up, GOD SHOWED UP! It was never as I expected, yet it was far better than I planned.
First God asked me to take a look at the Bible’s definition of Love. After three years of that study, I started to understand who God was, and still is today. I learned how loved I am, despite my many flaws! In the process, my heart began to change and break for things that went against His Word. You see, God is Truth so as you get to know Him, you will begin to understand life in new ways. He will convict your heart, but God will not condemn you! Christ is a Savior not a Slavedriver. Loving Truth + Merciful Grace = an unexplainable and grateful joy! As my thinking changed, my heart changed, and so did my behaviors. Little by little, setbacks and successes alike, God danced me through a journey in life that eventually brought me something I had NEVER felt before! It was the peace and “joy beyond understanding” that I had read about in Phillippians 4:7 (NLT emphasis mine):
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Confidence and purpose began to fill my life, and before you knew it, I was unaffected by the worries that I used to have. I would at least attempt to think before I spoke, and my relationship with Christ trumped anything else around me! I started to learn more and more about what a life with Christ looked like and sounded like, and I still learn new things almost daily! I am in the process of shedding control and fear for flexibility and faith! I am learning to dance again, and as I dance more and more led by the Holy Spirit, I inherit his gifts…
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22 NLT)
These gifts that I have experienced in my life came through an ongoing and deepening relationship with God. It has the Power to transform the way that I live my life! My relationship with my son became a gift instead of a burden! My empathy and love for those around morphed into an outpouring of God’s Love for us all! While I am still far from sanctified, I am content with the growth and the opportunities to continue to grow. I mess up on a regular, and daily basis. Thankfully, my joy returns as I return to God with a repentant heart.
I will tell you that without God, I am NOT a nice person, nor am I full of joy! With God, I can do more than what is possible on my own! Does this mean that in the next year I won’t face some trials of my own as I journey into 2020? Does it mean that I am now without any character flaws? Does this mean that I have attained perfection in all that I say, think, and do? Absolutely not! In fact, the Bible is very clear that we WILL have trouble! The difference is that I am no longer facing the World in my own understanding. GOD WILL always give us what we need in Him, With Him, and Through Him to do what we are called to do when we ask!
So, for me, I start my own Jumpstart Into Joy by fasting from habits that have kept me from God. In the past, I have completed a 21-Day fast from Social Media, Procrastination, Comparison,
Complaining, and Doubt. Just like the experiment that gave me a jump start to my relationship with God (see Finding Hope At the End of My Rope, Sept. 2018 issue), I start every January reconnecting with the Joy that is my strength! For 2020, I am fasting from “Making Excuses”.
God has given me my phrase for the next year: Joyful Restoration. If I’m going to believe God to fulfill His Promises, then I will have to learn to STEP OUT and try something outside of my comfort zone! When I asked for Hope, God Gave me Hope through Hard Work. When I asked for Freedom, God gave me liberation from external comfort for mental tranquility. When I asked God for His Power, it came with embracing my own weaknesses and asking for help. Now, as I settle in for Joyful Restoration, I already know that it will require two things of me:
- Letting Go of what I think I know for God’s better future- His Will, His Way, His Plan, and His Timing #ReleaseAndOpen
- Stepping into the unknown with bold confidence so much so that the end result isn’t what’s important. It’s all about what I learn on the journey, and it’s about the growth. I need to let go of excuses and take consistent, obedient steps of action! #ThePreciousPresent
As you venture into your own unknown of 2020, please consider quieting the world for your own version of 21 Days of Fasting. Only you and God will know what that should be. Listen for God’s voice and be ready for what you hear. There will always be an obedient action step that you can take following God’s revelation, and obedience happens before the blessings. If you find yourself not wanting to give up a certain vice or thinking pattern for 21 days, then that is likely the exact thing to let go of!
Finally, BELIEVE! Believe that with God, YOU CAN! Believe that You were made ON PURPOSE and FOR HIS PURPOSES! Believe that there is a Loving God who wants to give YOU more than you would give yourself! Who knows, what if the Joy, Peace, Confidence, and Contentment that you are looking for is on the other side of your YES! Don’t give up! Let the perseverance finish its work in you (James 1:4), knowing that:
I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! (John 15:11 NLT, emphasis mine)
Happy New Year, Friends! May it be Salty and full of light, love, and learning as you let go of the old and jump into the joy of the new!