I am sure that we are all familiar with those situations when something bad is taking place and we hit our knees in desperation, crying out to God, and then He answers and the situation is solved and we go back to our happy lives. But what about those situations that linger? God may be working, but the answer is not immediate. How do we feel then? When our loved one takes another bad turn in their illness, when our child comes home only to clean us out for their next fix, when our own pain makes us question all aspects of our lives – how do we feel then? Don’t we have the right to be upset? Angry? Discouraged? Depressed? Our complete lack of control in these circumstances sends our emotions into chaos. Maybe life has dealt us a nasty hand – it would only be natural to harden our hearts and pile on the layers of self pity and cry, “whoa is me!”
That is the natural reaction of our flesh to these situations. But we are not alone – we have God. Does knowing God mean that I am going to feel happy instead? Wouldn’t that seem like I am saying that I am happy that my loved one is sick, or my child is lost into the world of drugs, or that I am in pain (emotional or physical)? Perhaps I am not using the right words here. I don’t know that anyone could feel “happy” in any of these situations. But must we be defeated? It doesn’t make sense that the God who promised us “abundant life” would want these circumstances to leave us wallowing in the mire. What is the answer then? It is found in who we believe God to be. If God is not capable of intervening in your life, and allows the world to evolve without His influence or purpose, then perhaps you are out of luck. But since we know that God is powerful and present and purposeful and passionate about His people, then we have hope. We can trust Him in these situations to bring about His greater purposes. We can experience joy even in the worst of it.
Psalm 33 speaks of the works of God. How He created the world and watches over His people. It reminds us to praise Him. And to trust. Verses 20-22 state, “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” We hope, we trust and our hearts find joy. Doubt and fear and despair are joy killers. They all come when we take our eyes off of the Lord. But when we place our hope in Him, we have joy – even in the ugliest circumstances.
Joy is not feeling “happy.” Rick Warren defines joy this way: “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all of the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” Even though we may want to just stop and bury our heads in the sand, we can go on living. We can trust God. We can choose to keep our eyes on the One that is in control. Today I will praise Him for what He has done for me, and what He will do. My story will be about Him and His kindness, not about me.
I have been facing a new challenge these days. Over the last few months there have been hints of its presence but this past week it reared its ugly head. There was no more denying it. My reaction was typical: “Why me?” I went through the usual emotions – anger, grief, depression, desperation. And then it occurred to me that clearly I was not getting anywhere on my own. I headed to my room and bowed my head. I laid it all before the Lord and cried. I prayed that God would help me to accept what was happening. Almost immediately I was surrounded with an immense sense of peace and was assured that this was not happening TO me, as if I were being punished. Instead, it was simply happening. And God was going to use it to make my life better. He said that even though it seems bad, He is in it. He has a greater purpose. It was weird to go from crying about something to joy, but I did. God loves me enough to keep making my life better! He isn’t done with me yet! I am so grateful for His hand!
He encouraged me with His words:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”
and sealed it with a song,
Critically Low Battery – that’s what my laptop said as I pulled it out to write. And I thought… you know, that describes the way I am feeling right now very well! Isn’t it amazing that our mountaintop experiences are often followed by a walk through the valley? Or is that only me? The last couple weeks I have experienced more of God than any other time in my life, and this week I feel so completely disconnected. There have even been moments where I have felt smothered in a massive cloak of despair and sadness – but for no reason. I have realized that the person that I need to “speak life” to this week – is me. I needed reminding that God is still here. I am looking in the wrong direction. It is almost miraculous the way the burden lifts from my heart the moment I begin to praise the Lord. It is like the light turns on and casts out the darkness that has surrounded me. Suddenly there is joy and peace.
I am thankful that these moments are now more brief than they used to be. I find that I hear the voice of God more clearly – even through the fog, so that I can respond and begin walking in the light again. But I completely understand the way one can be overwhelmed by the darkness. i used to get that way. I always felt like I was drowning. The surface just out of reach. All of the worries and tasks seem to push out God’s voice, but now, I have been reminded to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). When I am swallowed up in self pity, I can still make my way to the CD player and put on a praise song. Then as I worship, the cloud lifts and I find strength for the day. God is so faithful!
There is an old song I heard about being on the mountaintop and that if we stayed there then no one else would know that they could go there. We need to come down to tell them. I need to come down and walk through these valleys – the same ones that others walk – but walk them with hope and joy and peace, knowing that I do not walk them alone. It is this hope that I must communicate to others. It is this hope that will draw others to the Lord. As much as I might like to stay on the mountaintop with the Lord, I was created to show others the way. Lord, let me walk these valleys with purpose and find my way back to the mountaintop – with a whole group of friends!