This past weekend I had the honor of speaking at a women’s brunch in West Texas. (Side note that has nothing to do with this blog: there’s a reason there are so many fun windmills spotted along the highways in West Texas. I’m thinking whoever invented hair spray came from that part of the world…) I love nothing more than getting to talk about Jesus, who He is, and how He rescued me. I love that the Lord allows me to share stories of “aha moments,” where He has revealed truth to me in the midst of my mess, and used that truth to start a transformation process. I’ve learned the importance of sharing my stories, and that was exactly what I spoke on this weekend. The whole message centered around the fact that my (our) stories matter. They matter to me (as I vulnerably learn to walk out of shame); they matter to others (who need encouragement on the journey); and they matter to the Lord (who is the true hero of our stories - the ONE who redeems them for His glory). In the process of speaking this weekend, I wandered down a back road to JOY. I should have known it would lead there; but somehow it took me by surprise.
Vulnerability moment here. I always get a little nervous before I speak. Yes, even still, after all the years, and all the times. In some ways, there is a good side to that - it keeps me sharper, and humble, dependent on the Lord for my every word. However, a few years ago, I started to experience some mild anxiety issues. They come and go. There is no rhyme or reason to them. They hit unexpectedly. There is no specific “trigger.” I don’t like how I feel in the midst of them…and, sometimes it’s very hard to think clearly when I’m trapped in that place. So, if anxiety hits before a speaking event, it compounds the little bit of nervousness that is natural. This often turns to fear (unnatural); the Lord does not give a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). In this case, anxiety and fear are JOY robbers. As I prepared to go this weekend, out of nowhere came some intense anxiety that threatened to choke me… It’s happened before a time or two, and the Lord has faithfully sustained, allowed me to rise above and press on. So, I steadily continued forward…one foot in front of the other. Somewhere in the middle of this messiness, the thought occurred to me (probably from the Lord, it sounded like Him): There is no better time to practice what you’ve been studying. After all, “faith without works is null and void…” and, we don’t just “hear the word, we do the word.” I began putting everything I had learned, thus far, about creating space for joy to reign in my life: time in the Lord’s presence, meditation on Scripture, filling my mind with praise, taking some special “Sabbath moments”… Still, while the pressure eased, enough remained that I definitely felt a bit discouraged.
As I went to the event on Saturday morning, I prayed a few words from Judges that have become a focal thought on some days: “Oh, my soul, march on with strength (Judges 5:21, NASB).” I gotta tell ya, somewhere between the car door and the church door, God stepped in and stooped down (another favorite verse from Psalm 18:35) to work on my behalf. He’s still a miracle worker, don’t ever think otherwise. However, here was the back door to joy that I found in the midst. As I began doing what I had been called to do; as I began sharing my stories - recounting God’s faithfulness in my past, there it was, FULL JOY, “bubbling over.” It’s not just in the remembering, but in the recounting, of God’s deeds that hidden joy is given room to burst forth.
As I headed back to the hotel following the brunch, I thought of David dancing unashamedly with JOY as he brought the ark back to Jerusalem. I looked up the verses, and discovered amidst his song of thanksgiving and joy, he recounted the stories of God’s faithfulness to Israel. He not only remembered; he sang about them…loudly, cheerfully, rejoicing. His heart soared the more he recounted the stories of Israel’s history with the Lord, and one line stood out above the rest in that passage: Even the trees of the forest sing for joy…(1 Chronicles 16:33). Later, Isaiah made this declaration: For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands (Is. 55:12).
#lessononjoy - Recounting and sharing our stories of God’s faithfulness sends us out with JOY!
Speak the faithfulness of God - even the trees of the field will clap their hands!