Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fullness of Joy (from Grace)

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. 
- Psalm 16:11-

...for [this] day [is] holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. 
-Nehemiah 8:10-

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. 
- Psalm 5:11-

Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. 
- Psalm 43:4-

***

I opened bleary eyes as I came out from under anesthesia after undergoing exploratory surgery. After two years of endless tests, I hoped perhaps they had finally figured out what might be wrong. I looked up at my Mom who was faithfully standing next to me and holding my hand in the recovery room. 

“Did they find anything?” I tentatively asked her, not sure I wanted to know the answer.“Yes, honey, they did.” She told me what the diagnosis was, and I knew that I had basically just been told the equivalent of: “You’ll be in pain the rest of your life. It’s not curable.”

Chronic health issues. For a lot of people, those little words carry a big stigma along with them. Health issues are messy, daunting, frustrating, discouraging, lonely, and emotional. I’ve felt all the emotions that come along with a life-long diagnosis. And I can definitely agree that it isn’t an easy thing to face--either from day to day, minute to minute, or for the long-haul. Many tears are shed if I stop and really think about what I’m facing.

I’m not here to talk about my health issues, though. I’m here to talk about a God who is much, much greater than any health issue out there. He’s promised me eternity with Him, and that far outweighs this momentary life!I’ve been stripped of all I ever had to lean on--strength, pride in self, ability, independence, self-sufficiency, physical capabilities. As I lay in bed day after day with my heating pad glued to me, there is such a bait for depression and wallowing. And yet, I’m faced so clearly with the reality that adversity and joy go hand-in-hand. This seems o backwards, and yet when God is at the helm of your life, how can it be any other way? 

“...in Your presence is fulness of joy...” 

Being in constant pain does not release me from the honor of giving God glory with every aspect of my life. A daunting “incurable” diagnosis does not give me a right to be angry. Being in physical misery much of the time does not absolve me from loving the Lord with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind--every moment of every day. Being sick does not entitle me to be selfish with my time and resources. Yes, my life from day to day may look very different from Jane-down-the-street who is hearty and hale, but I am not any less called to glorify God with all that I am.

This stripping of my own strength has made me realize how much pride I had in myself, and how little I truly depended on the Lord in each day. When you get to a point where you have nothing left, and the rest of your life is looming out in a daunting expanse before you, it can be scary--it brings you to the end of yourself. What better thing to be brought to the end of than your self, though? I find this to be great cause for rejoicing in my own life! “Jesus, I have nothing of my own to give or depend on--oh! how I need You!” I throw myself at His feet and come face to face with the reality of the verse in Psalm 16:11 “...in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

When I glory and rejoice in God my Savior, rather than wallowing in my diagnosis, it becomes an unstoppable antidote against the temptation to give into discouragement and bitterness. It becomes a time of thanksgiving--because anything that drives me to Jesus is something to be thankful for. Being driven away from dependence on self and to the feet of my Jesus is a beautiful place to be.It is in those moments that I am filled with joy; I experience the true unending strength of the Lord; my misery is turned to ministry--I am turned outward, looking for ways to pour the love of Jesus into those around me. Abiding in Christ--it can be done anywhere, under any circumstances. It may be true hat the chronic sickness and pain doesn’t go away, but neither does Jesus!!

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