Friday, February 10, 2012

Joy Amid The Anguish

I am in the middle of going through the new James study by Beth Moore, called Mercy Triumphs. Trust me when I say, that the timing of this bible study could not have been more God-ordained in my life.

Had I done this study a few years, or even a few months ago, I am not sure whether it would have had the same impact on my heart as it has right now. I don't know why I always act so stunned when I see God's perfect timing woven through our lives, but isn't it wonderful?!

I shared with you earlier this week that myself and my family have experienced some hardships within the past year, and as a result, I have felt an oppression on the inside, portraying itself in discouragement on the outside. But God chose this new bible study to be one of the many tools He would use to dig deep into the pieces of my soul - not only where I needed healing, but where I needed hope.

A few weeks ago, Beth's session was focused on John 16:20-24 (in addition to the teaching on James about "consider it great joy... whenever we experience various trials"). I've never liked that verse, have you?  I doubt it..... yet the older I get, the more I understand the truth in it.

John 16:20-24 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (NIV)

Do you see a few repetitive words here? Such as "anguish" and "joy". Two words in stark contrast to each other, but which are actually intertwined simultaneously throughout our lives.

Beth said so many life changing truths during this message, that I could scarcely write them all down fast enough. The way she words her statements, dripping with eloquence and spiritual depth, never ceases to astound me. But there was one absolute truth in this particular teaching that caused a well of hope to spring up from somewhere deep within me:

"There are times when God brings an unrelated joy to our time of anguish to help us get through it."

When I heard her say these simple words, my heart leapt. It was as if God sprinkled a little holy dust over my head and it fell gently into my spirit.  I began to think of the things that would bring me great joy, and consider my deepest longings.  I felt a bit like a little child anticipating her birthday - knowing she was going to get lots of wonderful presents, and excited about the possibilities of what they might be.

I went from feeling hopeless, to hopeful. In fact, I wasn't wondering "if" God would bring joy, but "how" and "when". I found my heart expectant with excitement to see Beth's biblical truths play out in God's perfectly designed plan for my life.

There is one particular hope that I have been praying for over the past six years, always asking for God's perfect timing, but always hoping His timing would be sooner than later. The waiting game had become so long, that I had nearly lost sight of my original dream, and had begun to wonder if maybe I had stepped ahead of God, and was working on goals that were outside of His will.

But as Beth reassured us that God always provides something good and joyful in the midst of the anguish and hard times, my hope was renewed. I found myself daring to believe that this might be the time when God  would act upon my simple prayers that have been floating up to heaven year after year.

For a few weeks, I dared to believe that maybe, just maybe, He would bring light to the little dream that's been in my heart.  And this week, His light began to shine on my dream with the force of a lighthouse in the middle of the darkest night.

An "unrelated joy", which I might have taken for granted years ago, was dropped from heaven, right in a season of life that has been filled with its fair share of anguish.  God used Beth's words to fertilize the soil of my heart, so that when He watered the seed that He planted long ago, it would be ripe for sprouting.

Next week, I'll share with you what joy God has bestowed upon me. In the meantime, I want to give you some thoughts to ponder this weekend about your ability to enthusiastically and expectantly look for God's joys, even in the middle of very hard trials. Maybe it is not something you have done in a while. Maybe life has been filled with so many heartaches, that you don't even expect to feel joyful anymore. It is never too late to believe that God loves to give gifts to His children, and He has something special waiting for you.

I want you to search within yourself how this concept of "joy amid anguish" has been true in your life.  It's something we rarely give thought to, but believing that God longs to bring us joy can open the door for us to begin seeing past our own perspective, and into God's. And that is where true hope begins.

* Have you seen God use a difficult experience in your life to draw you closer to Him?
*Have you ever thought the worst was going to happen, but then something good happened in the end?
* Has God ever used a hard trial in your life to equip you to see His power at work?
* Have you ever prayed a repetitive prayer, never ceasing to stop asking God for that blessing?
* Do you believe that God's timing is really always perfect?
* Consider how God used something painful in your past, to fuel a passion inside of you for something.
* When is the last time you were down on your knees, and truly believed that God heard every word?
* When is the last time you felt hope, about a seemingly hopeless situation?
* Have you ever experienced a time when great joy came in the middle of a very difficult time?

Get excited!!!! Get expectant!!! God's gifts are better than anything we could ever imagine.

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Donna said...

Thank you for being God's obedient servant! This was just what I needed to hear after returning from Colorado where I spent the last week with my brother and his family. My sister-in-law died peacefully a day after I arrived. She had battled Lou Gehrig's disease. We had a wonderful celebration of her life on Wednesday knowing she is now pain free, dancing on streets of gold! Even though I am physically and emotionally drained I know God will sustain me. He will give my family joy amid the anguish!


Sandie said...

A resounding YES, YES, YES to all your questions. We are currently studying "James - Mercy Triumphs" at our church . I love the book of James. Many years ago I discovered "Consider it pure joy whenever we experience trials" and to this day find great comfort in the rest of that particular instruction "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Joy during a trial is not something that comes easy however in time and with my willingness God is always faithful to help me find His joy in the midst of darkness and bring me back to the light of His promises.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to hear what your joy don't forget to share next week!
I think this is such a great post. Last week in the midst of some stress an unexpected joy came. Then I started looking for other joys and realized that there are many, many joys to help us through the anguish. Sometimes I just need to remember to look for them!