A couple weeks ago my kids went to Vacation Bible School. I walk into the church to greet my kids after their first day of VBS, and I can immediately tell they have had the time of their lives. We go home, but they can’t stop talking about it so they decide to invite some neighborhood friends to come to VBS with them for the rest of the week.
The next morning we arrive, friends in tow. My son’s heart is bursting with delight and expectation.
We sign up our little friends, but they get put in a different group than my kids. I knew this would be disappointing, but with over 500 kids in attendance, I had a hunch it would be tough to fit our friends into the same group.
I look at my son. His heart once swollen with joy is now deflated with disappointment. With tears welling up in his eyes and lips quivering he says, “Mom, I want to go home.”
I put my arms around him and whisper in his ear, “I understand how you feel, but sometimes things don’t work out how we plan. You had your hopes up, but don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. The day isn’t ruined. You’re going to have a wonderful time.” I feel his little body shaking to hold back tears.
I lean in to him and pray into his ear that Jesus would be his joy today.
I’m flooded with my own emotions now. I’ve been in his shoes.
I know all too well the struggle raging in his soul this morning. In the last 15 months, my husband and I have faced more disappointment and discouragement than I ever would have imagined. Plans failed, dreams were crushed, faith was tested, and the fight for joy at times has felt like an epic battle raging in my heart.
I also know well that joy is a choice, so why can it be so hard?
I’ve been the exhausted mom at home with three young kids. I’ve had those ugly moments where I’ve erupted in frustration instead responding joyfully calm. I know the battle–it’s been waged in my own soul. I want joy, but I struggle to grab hold of it.
And I’m not alone. I’ve grieved with parents who have lost a child. I’ve cried with women whose marriages have been lost to infidelity. I’ve stood with brokenhearted mothers as they’ve cried tears of anguish over children that have rebelled beyond recognition.
I can hear the cry of the brokenhearted saying, “What then? How do we choose joy in the middle of THIS?”
We grieve, we cry, and then we fight. We wage the war against our own soul and fight for joy with praise and thanksgiving. Bringing praise in the middle of painful circumstance, in the night season of our lives, can almost feel like a sacrifice beyond the capacity of our soul. When our heart drowns under pain and sorrow, frustration or worry, we bring it to the foot of the cross in surrender, lay it all down at His feet, and offer it as a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15), a sacrifice of joy (Psalm 27:6). We lift our hands and voices and verbally declare the goodness of God over our lives and our circumstance.
When we thank God for all He has done and all He is going to do, we break the power of circumstance to dictate the direction our soul will take and we allow Jesus and His joy to rule and reign over us from the inside out.
He fills us with joy that overflows from the inside and strengthens us. This sacrifice is holy to God, honored by Him. He sees straight to the heart and His joy is our strength. (Neh. 8:10)
This is not the end. God is faithful and He will bless you in the middle of your present circumstance. Joy comes in that place of surrender, that place where we wake up to the blessing that God has poured out over us in the midst of our trial. We offer that sacrifice in the middle of the dark, night season of our lives, and His promise is that joy will come in the morning. We thank Him, we count our blessings, we wait in hopeful expectation for Him. He won the battle for our joy at the Cross. He has triumphed, and so will we.
I pick up my son that day. I ask him how it went. With a full heart he declares, “You were right, Mom. It didn’t start like I had hoped, but it ended better than I planned. I made new friends and I had one of the best days of my life. Thanks for praying for me.”
My heart swells with gratitude. Joy is here.
I pray this today, Psalm 30, over myself, over you, over us, that joy will fill you today in this new day, this morning season of your life and mine.
I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7 Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.
8 I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!
This post is featured today at stringingpearlsbiblestudy.wordpress.com as a part of my friend Wendie’s Stringing Pearls Ministry summer Bible study series on Joy. She is a mom, author of several books and a speaker. Her ministry is amazing. I love reading her blog and following her ministry. I know it will be an encouragement for you today. Be sure to stop by her blog! http://www.stringingpearlsbiblestudy.wordpress.com.