Great joy!

Joyful. Happy. Blessed. Content. Satisfied. Glad. Delighted. Pleased. Cheerful. All of these words occur on the joy spectrum. We think of some as outward expresssions and others as internal responses, but all are aspects of joy. All forms of joy are indicators that we are walking in far more life.

When our children were little, my husband and I taught them to obey the instructions they were given quickly, completely, and cheerfully. Their attitude was as important as their actions. Sometimes cheerfulness came easy for them; preschoolers LOVE helping with “big people” tasks. Other times were challenging; in some situation neither they or us were naturally cheerful! It was important to us that they learned to work and follow their leaders in life joyfully.

Joy, in all its various forms, is important to God, too. It is a recurring theme in His word:

…This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. (Ecclesiastes 3:12, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8, NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (I Timothy 6:6, NIV)

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…(Isaiah 53:11, NIV)

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. (Psalm 68:3, NIV)

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (2 Samuel 22:20, NIV)

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16, NIV)

…God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. (Luke 2:10, NIV)

The last verse caught my attention this week. The angel could have prefaced the news of Jesus’ birth in many ways: it will give you hope; it will bring you peace; it will show you God’s love. But he focused on the GREAT JOY it would cause. The birth of most babies is a cause of great joy for family and friends. The birth of Jesus, however, was a cause of great joy for ALL the people because it offers far more life. The angel continues:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  (Luke 2:11, NIV)

There are several reasons the birth of Jesus brings us great joy:

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is our Savior. He rescued us from the penalty of our sin, which is separation from God now and forever.

…Our Savior, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:10, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is the Messiah. He is a descendant of King David who will establish an eternal kingdom:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, NIV)

…The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15, NIV)

We have great joy — and far more life — because Jesus is Lord. He is our ultimate master and ruler…forever.

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11, NIV)

But why do these names — Savior, Messiah, and Lord — bring us great joy and far more life? Because they reset our perspective. They remind us to lift our eyes from the everyday struggles of this life and remember the bigger picture. Because of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we have the opportunity for far more life now and for all eternity. We have a Savior willing to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. We have a Messiah who will bring justice to the world. We have a Lord who will rule over His followers with goodness and righteousness for all eternity. Letting Jesus fill these roles in our life is indeed cause for great joy!

Great joy is not ignoring our problems, rather it is putting them in perspective. Whatever circumstances we face in this life, we can have far more life by choosing joy. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, our sins are forgiven, even when our circumstances tempt us to sin. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, justice and peace are coming, even though our circumstances are unjust. We can choose joy because, through Jesus, we will live in a perfect paradise forever, even though our current circumstances are far from perfect. Even Jesus chose to focus on His future joy when He faced the difficulty of crucifixion:

Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2, GNT)

Whatever you face today, face it with great joy — and far more life — in Jesus!

Sisters,
What word on the “spectrum” best describes your joy?
How does reflecting on Jesus’ life and purpose bring you great joy?
What circumstances challenge your joy?
Thankfulness helps us maintain and restore our joy. Choose far more life — and experience great joy — by taking a few moments to thank God for His work in and around you.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso

Safe or Good?

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion” …

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The more I meditate on this exchange, the richer it grows. In this story, Aslan represents Jesus Christ and Susan is a child preparing to meet him. She wonders what all of us would wonder when meeting an unrestrained lion: is he going to use his strength and power to hurt me? What a vivid comparison to our concerns about God’s role in our lives!

We want God to be safe, meaning we want Him to be tame, predictable, and under our control. But this is not who God is. God reminded Job of this after listening to Job’s lament about the difficult circumstances he faced:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?… Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?…Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?…Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail?…Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?…Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?…Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?…Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? (Job 38:4a, 8, 12, 22, 35; 39:19, 27; 40:9)

If you want to read more of this exchange, look up Job chapters 38 through 42. God’s power and knowledge is very humbling! But even this excerpt makes it clear: God is not subject to our desires and preferences. He is the Creator. He is in control. Embracing His role as King and our role as His subject is far more life.

Although God determines His own actions, Scripture assures us repeatedly that He is good.

Good and upright is the Lord. (Psalm 25:8a, NIV)

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8a, NIV)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. (Psalm 86:5, NIV)

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever. (Psalm 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 118:29, 136:1, NIV)

You are good, and what you do is good (Psalm 119:68, NIV)

The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:9, NIV)

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. (Nahum 1:7a, NIV)

No one is good—except God alone. (Mark 10:18b, NIV

But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness. (Galatians 5:22, NIV)

…you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:3, NIV)

Because of God’s goodness, we can trust Him to treat His children lovingly. The Bible is full of accounts that prove this over and over. One of my favorites is the account of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7. God had a special job for Gideon and told him about it. Gideon was slow to believe it was really God speaking — he asked for several reassurances — and God patiently provided each one. God told him step-by-step what would happen, and it all came true. God led Gideon and his army to a great military victory, even though they were greatly outnumbered. But God, in His goodness, looked at their hearts and provided just what they needed to trust and follow His instruction.

In my own life I have seen God’s goodness through His protection. Once he protected me from physical injury when my car was struck by lightning. Another time he protected me from a financial hardship by selling our house shortly before a major mechanical failure took place. He didn’t speak to me in the way He spoke to Gideon, but I believe His goodness was at work in those situations and many others I have faced.

So why, despite evidence, do we continue to doubt God? I think one reason is because we cannot see the whole picture. From our limited human perspective, we cannot see what might have happened without God acting in goodness on our behalf. We can only see what does happen, and sometimes it does not appear good to us. And we have an enemy, Satan, who doesn’t want us to see God clearly. He tempts us to focus on the hard and bad things God allows us to suffer. When we fall for that focus we forget to thank God for protecting us from worse situations (John 17:15). And for being with us through the hard times (Hebrews 13:5) and providing all that we need (Philippians 4:19).

We live far more life in the moments we release our idea of God conforming to our definition of safe and instead embrace the truth that He, in His goodness, provides all the safety we need. As we let Him be God, we are free to notice and enjoy His provision along our journey. We will encounter valleys along the way, but His goodness — and the opportunity for far more life — is always with us.

Sisters,
How are you tempted to make God be “safe”?
What evidence have you seen of His goodness in your life?
Pray for His perspective in the difficulties you face so you can see His provision this week.
Thank Him for being with you and providing all you need.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso