Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Upside-down Joy

I've been thinking lately of how some of the most joyful people I know have seemed to either be coming out of a period of great suffering or are, even more amazingly, in the midst of some great suffering.   Of course, after you have been through a season of hurt, of debasement, of sadness or loss, anything would be better. Any little glimmer would seem like "joy". Not happiness. Joy. But those who are joyful in spite of  their location in life's storms, whether they are just beginning or whether they are in the midst of a real down-pour that shows no sign of letting up, THOSE are the people I am constantly amazed by. I am inspired. I am confused! Because no matter how much I want to say "oh yes, I know what it is to have suffered loss or seasons of extreme sadness and next time, I will show what I have learned by an increase in faith and in joy!", I doubt I will. I hope I will but I doubt that I will have "arrived" in the area of joy in all things (James 2:1-4). I pray I show myself more mature but not for the sake of being better, for the sake of being a renewed creature.
I am not being a Debbie Downer here. I am just being honest. Joy is not my default...YET.
It's something I am asking the Lord to work out in me.

So as I am having all of these introspective thoughts on joy, I picked up my copy of One Thousand Gifts last night. I couldn't sleep. The reason for no sleep? One of my sources of greatest joy, this baby in my belly. Ironic. And I think God was just choosing to reveal himself in my "season of sleeplessness" Ha!  Anyway. I have maybe 40 pages to complete in this book and this is what I read when I resumed reading last night. I hope you are inspired to joyfulness, to take a hard look at your sources of joy and gain a clearer redirected perspective on God's real gifts. The joy of the Lord comes when we lose our rights, our safety, our clarity and our status. To be thankful BEFORE something "bad" happens. To live in a thankful, joyful manner. Live surprised:

Ann writes:

" Is it only when our lives are emptied that we're surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing- and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place, This day! Surprise! C.S. Lewis said he was "surprised by joy".  Perhaps there is no other way to discover joy but as surprise. The way the small live. Every day. Yes, the small even have a biblical nomenclature, Doesn't God call them humble? The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy.. Jesus whispers to the surprised, "God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth" (Matthew 5:5) The humble are laid-low bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives..

..In the upside-down kingdom of heaven, down is up and up is down, and those who want to ascend higher must descend lower and so "anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:4)."

"I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves on beneath the other, and that it is not a questions of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down to get His best gifts." -F. B. Meyer

"To receive God's gifts, to live exalted and joy filled, isn't a function of straining higher, harder, doing more, carrying long the burdens of the super-Pharisees or ultra-saints. Receiving God's gifts is a gentle, simple, movement of stooping lower."*

*{excerpts taken from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp; pp. 170-171}

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