New Every Morning
Here in the wilderness of a bleak midwinter, you can lose your mental bearings. Without question, February is brutal on the morale. Sweet-natured Albertans do not prosper when the sun is obscured for more than three days running. We like our big blue skies, and too much gloom and bitter cold makes us, strangely enough, both lethargic and irascible.
When you hit this psychological zone, brace yourself. An emotional blizzard is every bit as dangerous as a meteorological one. Lack of sunlight, exercise, and too much time navel-gazing definitely unbalances us. Admittedly, I am not at the top of my game these days. I find myself in a highly disorienting emotional warp. Everything is looming just a little larger than life. It takes self-control to stay on course, because I'm not the only one. In the general malaise, it's time to push the faith button. There is an antidote. I warn you, it sounds ridiculously simplistic. The great secret? Choose Joy. That’s right; simple, garden-variety joy.
For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5 NKJV
Yes, that’s both lyrical and beautiful, but it’s not just simple poetry; opiate to the masses. Joy is literal, tangible spiritual substance which is ours for the taking. Sound too good to be true? Put aside your dubious cynicism. Apparently, the Lord foresaw the incredible amount of energy it takes to dredge through the drudgery of everyday existence. He realized the fragility of our psyche, the hostility of the enemy and the limited range of our energy. Therefore, He made daily provision. How lovely is that? So few of us are aware of this very great privilege and tap into it.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23 NKJV
God releases fresh benefits for us every day. Among these is wondrous joy. This is not about how you feel, how great things are going for you, how smoothly your relationships are functioning or even the temperature outside. It’s not about how smart you’ve been, how hard you’ve worked or the status you hold. This celestial substance is more an expression of His emotion for us. If we possessed the faintest inkling of how adored we are, how secure our future, how boundless our inheritance, we could simply step into this holy bliss and let the bane of this world just slide off us. Joy is about holding on to this truth, the certainty of God’s unchanging passion for us in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s knowing everything is going to be alright.
Most of our problem is that we are so obsessively negative. Worry is a joy-killer. Jesus not only promised us His joy but He also told us not to worry in advance about what life holds for us. He actually commanded us not to fear for the future (Matt 6:34) – a mastery few of us accomplish. Modern zeitgeist has finally caught up with this Gospel truth, and the buzzword is ‘mindful’. It means focusing your concentration wholly on the activities and interactions that lie before you today. Discipline your attention and refocus your fear (into gratitude) and joy will ensue.
It must have sounded completely asinine to His disciples as they felt the encroaching shadow of the Cross move over their little band, to hear Jesus suddenly talking about joy. They were thoroughly confused (and who can blame them) as the Lord gave a huge, last-minute down-load to prepare them for the days, and indeed, years ahead.
Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. John 16:20-24 NKJV
I want that joy no one takes from me. I want to see sorrows turned to celebration. I'm going to cling like a limpet. Joy, unlike happiness or pleasure, is received by faith like any other gift of the Holy Spirit. Simply being aware it’s a gift for you is enough to commandeer it. You want joy? Actively refuse anxiety, cynicism, anger and fretfulness. Act like you already have it, and the emotional rear-guard will make itself felt. There’s a physiological phenomenon scientists have observed and measured, and it runs like this. If you smile even when you don’t feel like it, the simple action can actually make you feel better. You will experience more optimism, and positive people definitely impact their environment.
These days, I’m scouting for joy and clutching it in the simplest of things. I open my closet door and for a moment, just drink in the rainbow of colors. My chocolatey brownie tastes perfect with ice-cold milk. With the afternoon sun streaming in the windows, you can curl up for a little snooze just like a kitty. I wait for the sharp tang of pine as I flick the essential oil into a steaming bath. As I pull back the drapes in the dawn I see the outline of the deer, massed against the alcove of my window, pawing through the snow. Oh, the thrill when my car actually starts on the first attempt! Look for the silver lining folks; we will survive February.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NKJV
Photo by Bing