For the last decade, I’ve prayed for God to give me a word to meditate and think on throughout the year. In 2010, the word was “peace,” and God used the word to convict and heal me of a tendency to worry.
In January 2011, I felt impressed to begin concentrating on the word “joy.” And like a pig-tailed toddler with a sweet tooth, I had pictures of God giving me presents. Maybe He would overwhelm me with material blessings (I entered the HGTV Dream Home giveaway several times, just in case). Perhaps He was going to provide a huge advance check for a writing project…or send me on a national television show to gain much-needed exposure for my blog.
As you can see, my thoughts leaned toward the selfish, temporary, and trivial. I’m so glad He knows what we REALLY need.
I won’t bore you with all the circumstances that hit our family in 2011. Suffice it to say, we were shaken and stretched in ways we never imagined. But in the midst of stressful moments–such as when my father underwent emergency triple bypass surgery–I felt peace, instead of fear. Not that I didn’t have moments of panic, mind you. But when worry showed up like a scorned lover, I took a deep breath and told him: “Get lost. I’ve got a new beau, and He’s not going anywhere.”
Mostly, it worked.
Just like the arteries near my dad’s ticker were bypassed by a skillful surgeon, my heart had been strengthened the previous year by God’s gentle scalpel of truth. I’m so thankful He tirelessly fought the stronghold of anxiety that had crept into my life.
Want to know something else? During 2011 and into 2012, God DID give me a present, wrapped in a great big, blood-red bow: weird, unexplainable joy.
It is a spiritual gift, after all–just not one we talk about very much. My friend Megan says, “Joy’s not sexy, like wealth or prosperity. But it’s longer-lasting.”
I like that.
Joy means counting our blessings, both tiny and immense, while the world moans and heaves and believes all is lost.
Joy overcomes me when my eight-year-old cuddles with me and shows me his cursive practice. Joy warms my heart when my hubby texts me–because he misses me. And joy bubbles up when my teenager says, “I love you Mom!” out of the blue (it doesn’t happen often, believe me).
JOY is simply this: Jesus, at work in us, to do what we can’t do on our own.
There are many verses about joy, but one of my favorites is Psalm 28:7–”The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
My heart has leaped as I’ve spent time with Him. And as I’ve learned to take joy in His presence, He has given me a few answers to the desires of my heart, as well. Those “hugs” from my Father have satisfied my desire to know He’s listening, while whetting my appetite for more of Him–not just His blessings.
As Neh. 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
It has been, and it will continue to be. I am praying the same for you.