Joy: Buried Treasure

It was the night of bright lights and bling. New Years Eve – everywhere we looked there was glitter and sparkle and shine. Every particle of air held excitement and ice melted from sheer energy. There were smiles and hugs and the air was electric with celebration! No matter if 2016 was a good year to hang onto with tenacious enthusiasm or one that we couldn’t wait to vanish into history, the beginning of a new year sparks hope. Parties and celebrations ignite happiness and flame the atmosphere with joy.  

I wonder though, what happens now when the lights have gone out, the fireworks are over, the confetti has fallen to the ground in dusty clumps and the glitter is washed down the drain. Is that the end of happiness? Is that it for joy? It is, if joy is dependent on our circumstances.

I’ve been thinking.  Special events bring excitement into our lives; they’re blessings and we treasure those moments when our hearts feel happy. But the moments don’t last and as they fade, so does the feeling we confuse with joy. Joy is heaven-made. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. “The humble will be filled with fresh JOY from the Lord. Isaiah 29:19 [NLT] Doesn’t that sound like our joy comes from God and not from ourselves or any other source?

Happiness is homemade. It’s part of our human experience. Many years ago I read one of those sayings on the side of a coffee mug that said, “If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.” That’s a pretty good description of life, isn’t it? We’re on our journey for a while taking the scenic tour, a few curves a few hills – we’re comfortable, we’re happy. But then life gets really tough and the pleasant journey becomes a dangerous expedition. Thrown off our path we’re driven into the deep end of the ocean or feel like we’re hanging by our fingernails on the side of a cliff. Not our happiest moments, are they? There is no bling, there is no glitter, the light is gone. The last thing we feel capable of is being happy.

How often do we say it? “But Lord, I’m not happy. I’m tired of trying so hard to get through this. And Lord, in case you haven’t noticed, this ‘thing’ is getting me down. Somedays I feel so sad I don’t want to move.” Do you remember Psalm 23:1? The Lord is my shepherd … This isn’t a verse tucked into the Bible so we could envision a calm, serene flowing brook surrounded by wild flowers. Shepherds worked hard, trudged through brambles and mud to keep track of their sheep. And they protected every single sheep from any harm that threatened them. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Do you trust your shepherd? you-make-known-to-me-the-path-of-life

Jesus reminds us that nothing can take our joy away from us because he is the source of our joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Our circumstances may make us sad, they may exhaust us, we might feel like we’ve been plunged into darkness but it’s in our darkest days that the tiniest light appears brightest. The light of the world is Jesus (John 8:12); it’s he who is the source of our joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; as I walk with You the pleasures are never-ending and I know true JOY and contentment.”

We have to look for joy, like excavating for buried treasure because that’s what it is. Joy is a gift we choose to open over and over.  Joy is our light even when the bling of the world is gone. Look for the joy because it won’t come find us.

To choose joy means we choose God, we choose to fill our minds and fill our hearts with his words. Matthew 12:34 describes it so clearly. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Joy might not be a natural response to a broken spirit when days seem dark, but if you are God’s child, you already have unlimited, renewable joy. Nahum 1:7-8 tell us that God comforts his troubled children who put their trust in him. “The Lord is good. He protects those who trust him in times of trouble. But like a roaring flood the Lord chases his enemies into dark places and destroys them.” That’s God. He protects, and destroys the enemy that tries to steal your joy.

Lord, your word says you’ve given me an unlimited supply of renewable joy, but I’m having a hard time finding it. Please be a light on my pathway to peace and joy. Flood my heart with so much joy here is no room for darkness. God, I ask you to change my circumstances, Lord. But if you choose to grow my character through them, then please change me. Change my attitude, change my heart, change my life. Make me a faithful steward of your gift of joy. Amen

Running after bread crumbs

Once upon a time . . . and the story began. Does anyone else remember the anticipation of hearing all about the adventures of slaying giants and defeating ugly witches; Snow White fully grown and adoringly tended by 7 tiny gentlemen; Cinderella dressed in rags transforms into a beautiful princess when the glass slipper fits; Hansel and Gretel finding their way back home because of breadcrumbs scattered along the path.Bread Crumbs (1)
 
How often do we use breadcrumbs today to find our way back? I’m reminded of this in Psalm 119:55 “In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.” From the time I was in elementary school, I loved summer camp and didn’t want to miss my opportunity to be there for two weeks. My parents couldn’t afford to send me so I memorized Bible verses to earn a camp scholarship. Today those verses are my breadcrumbs. They run through my mind by day and I wake up with them on my mind in the night.
 
In science class I learned that our physical bodies are constantly trying to find homeostasis – to be in a state of stability, maintaining internal equilibrium and health regardless of outside conditions. Doesn’t it seem like we are constantly trying to find that balance between activity and rest; work and leisure? Sometimes it seems like the nickname for my calendar should be chaos – and I’m working on that – not overcommitting. How about you?
 
Do you, like me tell yourself that things will slow down, I’ll find my stride, life will find a comfortable routine . . . but instead there I am stuck in the spin cycle.
 
You know what? All is not lost! We have breadcrumbs to find our way back. God gives us words to comfort us, guide us, give us hope, fill us with unexplained peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
 
Scripture verses give me courage when the enemy of my soul lays out before me all the reasons for fear. Breadcrumbs lead the way back to comforting faith. Whether in illness or perfect health, we are one breath away from talking with God.
 
I’m blessed and thankful to have memorized hundreds of scripture verses at a young age, but even if I hadn’t it’s never too late to lay out breadcrumbs so when life gets messy, you can find your way back to a place of peace. Are you weary today? There’s a trail of breadcrumbs to take you back to a place of peace. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Breadcrumbs – come to me all who labor and whose hearts are heavy – Here’s the path …. let’s get out there!