In the Meantime, Joy – John 17
Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world, so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they don’t belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. (John 17:13-17)
What a thing—to be prayed for by Jesus. Not only prayed for, but pored over in prayer. This whole chapter is almost too wonderful to comprehend, but there it is: Jesus, asking the Father to make us, his followers, more like him. And my favorite part? That we would know joy.
So what is joy? We hear it a lot at Christmas time, and we know we’re supposed to have it all year round. To be people with emotional steadiness, counting even our worst trials as blessings. People with a deep rooted peace that surpasses understanding.
And I get the peace part, and having faith that survives the worst of times. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a glass-half-empty sort of girl—a perfectionist, forever trying to earn my worth, which means I see deficits more easily than blessings. Cons more than pros. Faults more than strengths. Havenots more than haves.
And it messes with my joy.
Stick a pin in that.
For my son Sam’s first birthday, friends of ours gave him an inflatable ball contraption. It was huge—more than three feet tall and probably as wide. Brightly colored balls went in at the top, spiraled down a see-through tube, and landed in a pool of balls big enough for him to jump in. It was by far the coolest toy we’d ever owned.
Unfortunately for me, we didn’t have an air pump. So while Sam waited for me to blow the thing up manually, he played in the dirt. By the time I finally finished, he was so fixated on what he was doing that he wouldn’t turn around. I literally had to force him to look up, which of course made him cry. So there I was, pale and woozy, trying to give him this great new toy. “Look what Mommy made for you!” I told him, while he cried and cried, holding tight to a fistful of dirt and rocks.
And I do the same ridiculous thing. I cling to dirt in all its forms, believing it will make me happy, while God pleads with me to look up. Because, of course, the only way to experience life the way God intends is to choose Him day by day, moment by moment. To resist the urge to cling to my appearance, my money, my plans, my pride, my dreams, whatever—and instead to fix my eyes on Jesus.
Which brings me back to joy.
Joy is knowing that God has better things in mind for me than what I’m currently settling for. Not the least of which is Heaven. No matter the crap of the day, it will eventually end. No matter the pain we currently feel, it will cease. No matter the brokenness we’re enduring, we’ll be healed. Joy is the feeling of readiness for the promised land. Joy is knowing heaven is real, and Jesus is in it, and our rooms in the Father’s mansion will be awesome. Joy is knowing this life is temporary and nothing can snatch us out of God’s loving hand. That we are his and we’re getting closer to home every day.
Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, because we know hard stuff produces endurance that gets us through the mess while we’re on our way to bliss (James 1:2-3). In order to know joy, we have to know the Lord. And in order to be excited about going home, we have to believe what He says and drop the rocks.
I used to want heaven to wait because I wanted to learn how to drive. Then I wanted to get married. And have sex. And children. Then I wanted heaven to wait so I could take care of my children and spare them pain. But the older I get and the more heartache and pain I see and experience, the better heaven looks. And knowing it’s coming with all the relief and happiness and beauty it will bring, plants joy deep in my soul that I’m gonna cling to in the meantime.
(Order Amanda’s book, Confessions of a Raging Perfectionst here.)
Amanda Jenkins spent ten years in L.A. alongside her film-making husband surrounded by plastic surgery and high-falutin lifestyles, which is where she became convicted and inspired to write about her struggle with chasing perfection in all its forms. Amanda attended Northwestern Bible College and graduated with degrees in Communication and Biblical Studies. She has taught Bible studies for women of all ages for the past 14 years, and is passionate about communicating truth in a culturally relevant and funny way. Today, she lives just outside of Chicago with her husband, Dallas, and their four young children, including their recently adopted 6-yr-old son. She is also the daughter-in-law of Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the best-selling Left Behind Series, and drops his name in the publishing world as often as possible. Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist was released in 2013 by Tyndale House Publishers. Amanda blogs at RagingPerfectionist.com.