What brings you joy?
When I wake up in the morning I have lots of ideas about what will make me joyful.
It usually goes something like this:
A meaningful devotion with God; a hot steaming coffee; well-behaved children who bring me plenty of smiles, cuddles and predictability; nap syncing of the toddler and baby (ensuring time for another coffee and quick tidy of the house); a meaningful chat with a younger Christian/non-Christian; my husband getting back from work early; and last but not least, the children going to bed without protest!
That sounds like the perfect day.
That sounds like a God-glorifying, satisfying and productive day.
I believe that a day like that will bring me deep joy.
However, my days rarely go like this!
It doesn’t take much for my schedule to get out of kilter. Throw into my day two tiny people with teething, tantrums, and toilet training issues and it really doesn’t take much for mummy to lose her cool and perspective!
I sit down to sip my coffee and the baby starts whining, signaling an entire outfit change which means the coffee is cold by the time I get back to it. Or the toddler skips his nap resulting in a messy kitchen and a mummy with no respite throughout the day. Or my husband gets stuck in traffic messing up our meal plan and resulting in me having to bath the boys myself.
In these scenarios, reality has not met my expectations. My sense of control has gone out of the window. Entitlement, anger, and bitterness start to rear their ugly heads as I wallow in self-pity. My opportunity for joy has vanished.
But there is another way.
Joy can be found in the middle of the messy moments – in the messy house and in the messy hearts. In fact, the Holy Spirit loves to minister in those precise moments.
Tim Keller has said that “It is people without resources who know best the lavishness of God’s love.” That shouldn’t be a surprise to us. That’s the gospel!
People who are helpless, impoverished, dead in their sin and have absolutely nothing to offer to God, graciously get his forgiveness, his presence and his blessings in their life. Every spiritual blessing in Christ no less! (Eph 1:3) We deserve judgment and yet we get lavish grace, love, and relationship with the living God himself.
What amazing good news!
What life-affirming, heart-warming, JOY-giving good news!
Sometimes we need to be reminded of our own sin and brokenness in order to remember our gracious savior Jesus who loved us and gave himself up for us. (Gal 2:20). Sometimes we need frustrating, difficult, disappointing and stressful moments/hours/days to really experience the joy offered to us in the Gospel. We need to be forced to the end of our resources to rely on God’s – it’s there we find that he is the gracious provider. It’s there that we remember we are needy, but he has plentiful resources to pour on us. It’s there that we realize that it’s far better to be dependent than independent.
It is often in the hard times that the gospel is especially precious to us.
God loves us! Jesus has rescued us! We are waiting for a perfect New Creation! God’s Spirit dwells within us! God is not indifferent to us but is working in and through our situations! God’s grace towards us is not dependent on our performance! We can have a terrible, sin-ridden, “I need to gorge myself on cake”-day and God’s grace is there for us in the midst of it.
Joy is available in unexpected places because God is right there with us.
Real joy is not found in my perfect schedule and love of comfort.
No, real joy is found in Jesus. Our savior, redeemer, and friend.
“8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9
Cathy and her husband Scott blog at www.gospelcentredparenting.com where they love to explore how the gospel is wonderfully good news for family life. They believe that God’s grace enables us to parent our children with joy, hope, and humor. You can connect with them on twitter, facebook or Instagram.