I say that God has blessed me abundantly when life is going well, yet I struggle to say those same words when life seems to be a mess. How often do our spiritual lives revolve around the ups and downs in life? How often do we twist our view of the church, God, and other Christians, warped because of our own selfish desires to be satisfied and happy. Why is it that we so often cling to our own happiness, rather than seeking the radiant joy that is found only in Christ? There is joy for the persecuted, the sinners, the abandoned, the outcast, the sad and lonely, the youngest child and the oldest grandparent. I recently wrote a song with the words saying "I'm trading my sorrow for victory, hoping that they will see Christ in me." How could I write such words, when I so often reflect the world, rather than Christ? Then I realize that even though I am a hypocrite, who is far from living a life that is 100% sold out to Christ, He can still use me in my weakness... and that is reason enough to have great joy!
I'm challenging myself to give continual thanks to our Creator who never leaves us, and who is constantly pouring out his grace and mercy on us, even when we refuse to see it. Lately I've had so much joy and have felt the freedom I have in Christ filling my life... but I think of all the times before in my life I've had this joy in my heart and have let it fade gradually. I want this joy to stay... because I want my joy to be based on the love of a Creator, not the allurements of the world. Nothing good in me is without the touch of His hand. Everything sinful in me is the touch of the enemy. And how often do we forget to pray, in God's name, that the chains of sin would be broken in our own life? Only recently have I taken those prayers seriously, and it is only since then that I have felt this freedom. I am still sinner. I still deal with issues of trust, jealousy, lust, forgiveness, negativity, pride, and so many more... the sins are disgusting, but our Savior has promised us new bodies that will not be captured by sin, but rather captivated by His holiness. I am yet again filled with joy.
I know I will still stumble and fall... but I have felt challenged to choose joy, to defy what the world says and to rejoice despite sufferings, great or small. I pray that you will challenge yourself to do the same, because there really is no greater name than the name of Jesus.