Joy-Do We Even Know What It Means?

JoyBlackboard

Each year I attempt to set some goals (you can read more about that on my business blog).  More importantly, I begin in November to pray about a “word” or theme for the year.  I haven’t been doing this long, and began the practice after some encouragement from a dear friend, Shari Edwards.  As I have begun this practice I have come to realize how valuable it has been in helping me to really know WHO God is.  It is easy to know of God.  Even as a Christian I can study and know more about Him, but it can be challenging to know WHO He is, to experience Him.

As I prayed the word JOY kept coming to my mind.  Initially I brushed it aside, thinking it too trite.  Who picks the word JOY as their word for the year?  Pollyanna?  It felt too simple.  In my mind it was too close to the “blessed” syndrome of American religion-the one of prosperity and good if you love God.  Not my doctrine.  Not my faith.  So, in all honesty I began to pray really hard the word would go away.  Surely I needed something more serious, more worthy.  Ahhh, the human ego and our desires to do, to strive, to know.  In the course of those prayers, repeatedly god brought to mind or used a devotional or magazine article to put James 1:2-3 in front of me.  In those moments I began to understand what He desired for me.  I chose obedience and placed my thoughts upon JOY.

JOY isn’t a feeling.  JOY is a state of being.  JOY is one of the Spiritual Gifts His Holy Spirit gives us through our obedience and faith walk.  JOY is an attribute of Christ.  I can only experience JOY when filled with His Spirit.  I can only know JOY when I know HIM.

As I ventured through this season of doubt, fear, and anxiousness God has taught me much about faith.  How little mine was, can be and still is on too many occasions.  He has taught em to let go.  He has brought me from the desert abiding, to a deeper relationship with Him.  I know with certainty JOY is my word for 2015.  It won’t be a year of laughing, jovial moments, happy, happy, happy.  No.  The reality is life will continue to be hard.  Friends will lose battles with illnesses.  Loved ones will be lost.  Children will make poor decisions.  Persecution will increase.  But I know this to be true-when I walk in faith He will fill me with HIS JOY, an abiding peace which promises me salvation and wholeness.  He is reminding me this life is about being ready.  I want to grow this year and be the kind of woman who is ready.  Ready for the life I am living.  Ready to respond to the world in which I live.  I want to be spiritually grounded so I can experience His attributes in the midst of it all and be ready-ready to respond in deep abiding faith.

JOY-it isn’t a feeling.  JOY-a state of being.

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Fear is the Key to Freedom

From Deb @ Breathing in Grace
From Deb @ Breathing in Grace

 

If you’ve read much of my blog you know I struggle with fear and worry.  You also know I am a recovering perfectionist.  I guess it is highly possible the two go hand in hand.  I am so thankful God has chosen to speak to me a great deal about these two things.  Fear.  Worry.  I had convinced myself both were a sin.  Yep, big black, dirty sins.  That would lead to beating myself up over the worry and fear.  And you know how the cycle goes. The beating up, the battle in the mind, leads to more fear and more worry.  It’s really quite exhausting.

I believe all of us have been there.  Some of us just stay there longer than others.  I confess.  That would be me.  The recovering perfectionist.  The one that got to the end of her rope, couldn’t fix the world, much less her extended family, couldn’t do it all, missed the boat on some great chances.  The one living life exhausted and finally tired of living that way.  The one who knew there was more to life than this.  I could regret it all.  I could regret I didn’t learn sooner.  But, what good is that?  It only leads to a renewed cycle of fear and worry.

I am grateful.  I am grateful God’s grace never runs out.  I am grateful each morning is full of NEW mercies.  I am grateful He walks with me.  I am grateful that when we finally release He gives us rest, freeedom.  I am grateful I said yes to letting go of perfectionism.  I honestly thought letting go of perfectionism meant I’d be free of fear and worry.  Not so.  You see, the greatest lesson of all in this process of letting go (and it is a process, don’t kid yourself into thinking you can quit anything cold turkey) has been understanding His truth.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is a feeling.  God created it.  He created our minds and bodies to respond to it and in those responses we are often protected.    The sin comes in letting fear oppress us, hold us back from obedience and faith.  God knows I fear.  His word says that is okay.  His word tells me He has a plan for fear.  The plan is to keep going WITH Him.  The plan is to acknowledge the fear, to look it in the eye and say, “This fear is real.  But I will not let it win.  I have God with me, in me, around me.  I will walk with Him THROUGH this fear.” Too often I let fear oppress, hold me captive.  That leads to worry.  That leads to inaction.  That leads to nothing good.   God has taught me and reminded me that putting feet to my faith is what matters.  That thing that terrifies me, is most often the one thing needed to move me towards my God given calling.  He never says He will take the fear away.  He never rebukes us for having fear.  He simply says, “Do not fear” and then gives a directive.  For the Israelites it was “do not fear”, put the blood on your doorposts and the angel of death will pass over.  To Abraham is was “do not fear”, gather my people and I will lead you to the promise land.  To Mary it was “do not fear”, go tell Joseph and I will give to you my Son and you shall call Him Jesus, Messiah.  DO NOT FEAR is never a chastisement.  It is always a directive, followed by an action we are to take, followed by a promise.  Fear is not a sin.  Fear is often the propelling force.  It is the force pushing us to greater faith.  It is the force that says, trust me, put feet to your faith and hold on.

The worry thing.  Well, it is a sin.  I am still struggling with it.  It wins most often when I have let fear win.  There is something liberating though in coming to the truth that I need not fear, fear itself.  It’s hard-hard to embrace, but I am getting there.  When fear strikes I am learning to sit, to be still, and to listen intently for His directive I KNOW is to follow.  Then I pray.  I pray for strength to do it, to take the step.  The most beautiful part comes in holding His hand watching for the promise to unfold.