The Fight for Joy

I’ve been kinda silent on here for a little while.  The truth is, I had nothing to say, because this blog is sort-of like a light post for me.  As I see a little further down the road, I’m happy to show what I see to others and hope that they will join along on this fulfilling journey that I’m taking towards Heaven.  But lately I haven’t found the next light post.  I’ve actually felt more like I was in a cave… a really dark, encroaching, claustrophobic-feeling cave.  And why would I want to take you there with me?

But today is different.  This week is different.  I am beginning to see light breaking through.  Last week, I exposed all my vulnerability and asked for prayer to a group of fellow saints at a home-church gathering.  And I’ve learned some things along the way and am now ready to share a little.

For one thing, the dark crevices in life, when you feel hopeless, don’t turn around, don’t believe that all is hopeless… dig harder.  Press in.  Christ is calling for you to fight to know Him more.  There’s this horrible, heresy that has been taught in churches for who-knows-how-many generations, that God wants you to find all your fulfillment in life circumstances.  It’s called the “prosperity gospel”, but honestly, it’s no gospel at all.  Gospel means good news.  If we settle for earthly pleasures, we have missed the greatest of all Treasures.  “Whom have I in heaven but You? and and besides You I desire nothing on earth.  My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26).  That we can be satisfied with something so far less than the best and miss sight of the Glory, that’s bad news.  This is so counterfeit and it leaves us shy of the greatest blessings.  Sometimes, God wants us to find satisfaction and joy IN the suffering.  And in so doing, we actually find greater joy.  Because we discover that JESUS IS OUR JOY, not any comfort or convenience that this temporal world could afford.   And we discover that knowing Him so far exceeds having what we want out of earth that there isn’t even a comparison.

Another thing I’m experiencing is the kind of faith that is much deeper than the kind that sees the road in front of me.  There have been many days in the past many months when I felt as though God was far, far away from me.  I felt as though I were groping in the dark, alone, without a companion, human or invisible.  I am not used to feeling forsaken and alone.  I live with a houseful of people, and yet, lately have felt very isolated.

Yet, “Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Romans 8:24).  I’ve had to learn through experience, to trust in His Presence, when it felt like the furthest thing from me.  And through this suffering, my walk with God has become much more intimate.  I trust Him in ways that I haven’t had to before, or at least not for this long a period of time.  Remember that if you are a child of God, that it is not due to your righteousness, but His, so when that sly devil tries to convince you that you aren’t worthy of God’s love, tell him that he’s right, but it doesn’t matter, because you aren’t playing according to the rules, but according to radical Grace that took the hard road of the Cross, to liberate you and me.

The truth is, sometimes life on earth is hard.  These past many months (maybe even the past year) have been hard for me, discouraging, even debilitating at times.  I’ve barked at my precious family more times than I’d like to admit.  I’ve cursed my circumstances.  I’ve shaken my fist at heaven and told God that He needed to change my circumstances.  I’ve been self-pitying, self-loathing.  And you know what I haven’t been doing very good at… picking up my sword (the Bible).

You know when it all began to change.  When I started preaching the Bible to myself.  Thank God Almighty for having me memorize parts of the Bible, so that when I felt like the words were falling off the pages and I couldn’t keep my mind focused, it was already stored up in my mind.  I distinctly recall the night of the shift.  I sat under a waxing moon, preaching line by line, the lyrics of 1 Peter 3.  And my heart started to break in all the right ways.  The next day I was a little bit softer.  My heart a little more tender.  I kept digging.

Do you know what happens on the other side of that tight spot in the cave, the spot where you feel like you can’t get breath to fill the lungs?  Often you break through into a huge, open cavern… if you keep digging.  But first shafts of air, light, freedom, begin to pierce through.

Next I began preaching to myself Ephesians 6, where it tells me the kind of armor I am afforded for this supernatural battle: the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith (to extinguish satan’s arrows), the sword of the Spirit, which is THE WORD OF GOD!  In case you hadn’t noticed, the Word, the Bible, is the only offensive weapon.  You can’t win a war without an offensive weapon.  And with each sermon I preached to myself, with each quoting of Scripture, I gained strength.  I felt my lungs expand a little more.  I saw shafts of light breaking into my dark corridor.  I caught glimpses of His glory.  And my feet became shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (that’s why I can now write this blog).

The other weapon that we are taught to use in the Bible is prayer, which is almost interchangeable with praise.  They are two distinct things, but it seems as though they are almost always taught overlappingly.  Praise.  Thanksgiving.  This can sometimes feel like lip-service when you begin, because when you are in a dark place, it’s hard to give thanks and feel it simultaneously.  Do it anyways.  Trust me.   Thank Him for the very thing you are struggling with, even.  Because according to Romans 8:28, if you are a Christian, God is producing something far greater out of your suffering than the just the suffering itself.  He is spinning glory out of ashes and anguish.  Thank Him for it!  Thank Him that He will never leave you or forsake you, even when it feels like He has.  Thank Him that He has an eternal worldview, rather than one that is trapped up in this temporal “problem”.  Thank Him that heaven is much, much longer than earth.  Thank Him that His love for you isn’t contingent on how well you are doing at responding to your trial.  Thank Him for Who He is.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10).  Remind yourself of Who He is: Eternally, unconditionally loving, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, All-wise, Intimately acquainted with us (even in our suffering), purposing all things to work together for good for His children.   The more I read and study the Bible, the more I become aware of who God is… and the more natural trust becomes.

I have been claustrophobic and in anguish and not known how to see God, but I am falling out into a vast and marvelous space.  I see shafts of Light, thanks to prayer, praise, the Word and community.  These shaft of light are small glimpses of the eternal.  I am becoming Moses, and I am seeing God’s backside, and I am being changed.  And I’m not certain if the metamorphosis is complete yet, or if I shall have more dark days ahead.  I suppose so long as I still wear skin, there will always  be dark days.

But one thing I know for sure, God is always, always with me, even when it feels as though the earth beneath me is giving way, and there is not even a shadow of the Most High, that I have been forsaken.  Because hope that is seen is not hope… and God is teaching me to hope!

Space 11/1/15

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