Finding Joy in Hard Times – Various Scriptures
From Zechariah 11:
So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. (verse 7, ESV)
From Revelation 15:
“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (verses 3-4, ESV)
From John 14:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God…” (verse 1, ESV)
(Below is a journal entry from contributor Mary Freeman, including her thoughts related to today’s art post.)
Yes we believe, and yes we have faith. We have trusted God, and know in the deepest part of our soul that He is good, that His ways are best, right and good…always! But sometimes, sometimes right alongside of all that we know, we falter. The weight of the hard, the internal struggle, and the chaos can dim the eyes; can make the path weedy and dark. Sometimes life can again erect those prison bars that once held us captive, and sometimes we can let life close and lock the door.
But the truth of it is, those bars are of our own making. The truth of it is, we are free and those doors have been unlocked and opened. All we need to do is walk in that freedom. Walk in the truth. Sometimes we forget that; we get lost in the weeds…our eyes dim with the pain and unmet expectations. We forget where our help comes from. Sometimes we run from the pain, or we numb the pain, but it is still there.
And joy flees…
I cry out loudly to GOD, loudly I plead with GOD for mercy. I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail: “As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path. Look right, look left – there’s not a soul who cares what happens! I’m up against it, with no exit – bereft, left alone. I cry out, GOD, call out: “You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!” Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low. Rescue me from those who are hunting me down; I’m no match for them. Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public. Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessings! (The Message*)
Here’s what I see in Psalm 142 when eyes begin to clear. I turn from looking inside to looking outward to God. I pour out my heart to him. I give it all to him, my pain, my despair and my anger. God knows how I am feeling. He knows the traps of my wrong thinking that cause me to stumble. I can begin to feel utterly alone and that no one cares. I cry to God, who is not just my last chance, but my first, my second, my third. All my chances are him. God, get me out of this prison of my own making!!! We need others on this journey too, to help us see when our eyes are dim.
It’s all Jesus. He is the door. He is the key. He is, he is, he is!!!
As my eyes begin to clear and my self-erected prison bars begin to fall I begin to feel joy returning.
I read this today in my Advent devotional, The Uncluttered Heart, by Beth A. Richardson:
“Joy and peace come into our lives…when we mind more about God than we do about ourselves…”
“Joy’s very being is lost in the great tide of selfless delight – creation’s response to the infinite loving of God. But, of course, the point for us is that this selfless joy has got to go on at times when we ourselves are in the dark, obsessed by the sorrow of life, so that we feel no joy because we cannot gaze at the beauty. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, not of our gratified emotions. Come, bless the Lord…Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord.” – Evelyn Underhill, The Soul’s Delight
“Joy becomes an action rather than a feeling.” (The Uncluttered Heart)
My circumstances may not have changed, or may not change for some time, or ever… but I don’t want to stay in the prisons of my own making. I don’t want to live joyless, when joy and peace are offered. I don’t want to live so inward that I don’t offer a helping hand to someone else. I don’t want to live not showing others the one who holds the key, the one who is the door.
Joy can be had smack dab in the middle of the hard.
May we rejoice in God always, but especially today on the eve of the greatest gift ever given.
May we rejoice that Jesus was sent to heal the brokenhearted, and set free those bound in all kinds of prisons.
May we rejoice that even though circumstances may look bleak, God is indeed working for our good.
May we rejoice over the amazing love God has for us, his unconditional and right-where-we-are love.
May we rejoice that He is the lifter of our heads.
Praise be to God.
*See our editor’s note on The Message here.
Mary has always kept a journal, but what began as a woman’s own journey of God-discovery in her personal journaling, has spawned a ministry of reconciliation and healing for women. A few years ago, this mom of three realized a desire to dig deeper into her own heart-wounds and invite God into her hurt. The artist in her began experimenting with layering images, patterns and text into journal pages that captured words and feelings in a more coherent and impacting way. As Mary began to share her experience with her friends, opportunities to teach the technique of visual journaling began to open. Mary now leads workshops at her local church and in her home studio. She says, “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes…” Find her at asplendidadventure.blogspot.com and asplendidadventure.etsy.com.