Thursday, December 14, 2017

Count it All Joy

February 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

There are few passages in my Bible that speak into my life any more profoundly than James 1:2-3: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience (KJV). Hardly a day goes by that I don’t draw on this scripture to maintain my sanity in one way or another. As a woman, wife, mother, and grandmother, each day brings with it at least one (and most times, many) opportunities to “count it all joy” when, in fact, there is hardly anything to be joyful about!

There’s a huge difference in ‘knowing’ this scripture and ‘doing’ this scripture. The knowing is easy, the doing, however, is not so easy. The phrase “count it all joy” speaks to being HAPPY and REJOICING rather than considering our difficult circumstances as punishment or a curse or even a calamity. Joy! Joy! Joy!

As women, we tend to think we have to bear up and not let our true feelings show. Oftentimes we put on a fake smile to let the world know everything is just fine in our lives when, in fact, down deep inside we’re full of sorrow, heaviness, and oppression.

This isn’t the kind of joy James is talking about. He’s talking about the joy that gives us strength, the joy that reflects the inner transformation that comes from knowing and experiencing God’s great salvation. The joy that insists that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us because we understand we no longer live or move or have our being in our own strength.

James is speaking of genuine joy. He’s not telling us to cover up our sorrow or pain, but to allow the root of our joy–the Lord Jesus Christ–to shine through even in the midst of our difficult circumstances. James is admonishing us to be CONVINCED from the depths of our heart that whatever we’re facing is going to produce something in our lives that is profitable for us and for the Kingdom of God.

But, how do we do this?

Our children are being kidnapped by the secular influence of public schools.

Our family income is suddenly disappearing because of a failing economy.

Our bills are piling up because we’ve charged simple living expenses and now there’s no way to pay the bills.

The food prices are rising, the cost of living is skyrocketing, we’re presented with so many choices for a quick-fix that we know will only lead us down a road to disaster if we can’t keep up with our commitments.

The list could go on and on … divorce rates are escalating, homes are falling apart, natural disasters everywhere we look, churches depending on us to keep them afloat by our financial giving, and more. And, all the while, we’re supposed to be JOYFUL!

It would be tempting to think that James didn’t understand the times in which we live. But, we also understand that James was only an instrument in the Hand of God to write His Words to us — His eternal word that is not bound by time, generation, or society. It is as pertinent today as the day James picked up a pen and scribed the words on parchment.

So, how do we do it? How do we accomplish such a difficult task considering the challenges we’re facing?

Easy? No!

Necessary? Yes!

Ouch! That means change and change is just another stressor in an already stressful life. But, it’s a necessary stressor that will relieve the pressure mounting inside.

My husband and I have a garden each summer … he does the outside work and I take care of preserving and canning the produce. I love canning! I get huge pots of veggies on the stove, make all kinds of concoctions and can them for use during the winter months. One of my favorite ways of preserving is using the pressure canner. In fact, I’ll get two of them going at the same time.

But, being the impatient person that I am, after the food has processed its proper time, I’m already anxious to get the next batch in the canner. I’ll take the tongs and jiggle the pressure gauge to check the reduction in pressure, wait a few minutes and do it again. Finally, I’m so tired of waiting, I’ll stand there and jiggle the pressure weight until there’s no pressure left in the canner, remove the jars and refill the canner with the next batch.

Don’t laugh because this is a perfect analogy of how JOY relieves the pressure of all the stressors in our lives.

Our lives can be like the pressure canner. We hold things in and allow pressure to build up until we’re ready to explode. We put a “cap” on ourselves by not allowing JOY to have its perfect work in us, releasing pressure. We hold everything inside, allowing things to frustrate us without any release. Obviously, our challenging circumstances in life are nothing to be joyful about. We’re not going to laugh when our teenage son is arrested for drug paraphernalia. We’re not going to jump ecstatically when our husbands are terminated after years of dedicated employment. We’re not going to shout a hearty ‘hallelujah’ when we learn our unmarried daughter is pregnant, etc.

Circumstances do NOT bring joy; true joy comes from within. When we depend on circumstances to make us happy or bring us joy, we will undoubtedly live swallowed up by sorrow upon sorrow. However, Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. Our strength to endure whatever this life brings our way comes from the true joy of the Lord.

We can cry and grieve circumstances and will have a joy on the inside knowing God is in control, He will see us through, and His strength will grow within us in the midst of our weakness. The key is to separate circumstances from the foundation of joy planted deep in our hearts through relationship with Christ.

There is nothing wrong with grief or tears or sorrow as long as we never allow them to overshadow the joy of the cross–the joy of our salvation. This kind of joy works as the gauge on top of the pressure canner. Circumstances cause the pressure to build up but as long as we don’t cover that pressure outlet, we can survive the circumstances. However, when we allow our challenges and trials and persecutions to cover or overshadow our lives, the pressure will mount until we explode.

As you walk through whatever you’re facing, never lose sight of the joy of the Cross. Keep your eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of your faith. Focus on the freedom wrought through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that allows us to rejoice and be exceedingly glad in our hearts while dealing with whatever comes our way.

Let the joy of the Lord be your release even when the world around you seems to be falling apart. It is God’s provision for us as women, wives, mothers, and grandmothers who feel the pain of watching those we love and nurture suffer in this life.

It’s not impossible … this is very doable for each of us as long as we keep our focus, train our thoughts to dwell on the gift of joy so freely given to us to carry us through the dark valleys, over the insurmountable obstacles, and along the path set before us.

Joy in the God we love and serve.

Never lose sight of His provision even in the midst of the greatest sorrow we are faced with.

Release the pressures that tend to overwhelm by focusing on the joy of such great salvation and provision — the promises of our God and King to provide a way of escape with every trial that comes our way (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Our God has not left us helpless. Rather, He’s given us a reason to joy with exceeding great joy even in the toughest of times.

© Jan Ross
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