A lot of Christians say that Christians should always be joyful, and I also believe that Christians experience increasing joy. However, I think some believe “joy” means “paint an artificial smile on my face and pretend everything is ok, even though my life is falling apart and my heart is breaking.” I don’t think it means this, and neither do I think it’s always a bouncy, trouncy, Tigger type of joy. I think there are times of bright and dancing joy, but I think it’s usually more of an authentic deepness, a settled foundation, so that even when life is difficult and our hearts are breaking, there’s a light in the darkness, hope in despair, a knowing that we are always loved and never abandoned by God sort of joy. It’s like a line in a children’s song: “Real joy is mine, even if the teardrops start.”
About ten years ago or so, a 40-something year old man in our church got cancer. He had wife who loved him and two children. SS was well-liked in the church. Many people desperately prayed for his healing–individually and in Sunday school classes, small groups, prayer meetings, and 24-hour prayer vigils were held for him. Despite all this prayer, the cancer continued to ravage this him. One guy, a close friend of this SS, used to visit Sunday school classes and passionately plead with people to pray for him. He declared that SS wasn’t healed because people didn’t have enough faith. He said that the prayer, “God’s will be done” was a cop-out, prayed by people with weak faith. (Please don’t judge this man too harshly, he was feeling grief over his friend’s illness, and struggling with his own faith.) In just a few months, SS succumbed to his illness and died.
Today, as is my habit, I woke up, made coffee, turned on the computer, and connected to the world. I also read my Bible, connecting with God. It was a leisurely morning. I didn’t feel any pressure to hurry and get dressed.
The administrator of a Facebook group asked the following question awhile back: The Bible promises “Truth will set you free,” right? Is it just me, or do Bible quoters and Bible Pushers seem like the most bound up, un-free people in the world?
For many years, I struggled to believe that God really loves me. I grew up hearing that He did, and I thought I believed it, but I didn’t REALLY believe it deep down in my spirit. It comes from growing up with conditional love. Because I didn’t really believe He loved me, I was scared whenever I “failed” God that He would be disappointed or angry with me. And any time something bad happened, I thought God was punishing me for something. Recognizing that this was a problem, about ten years ago I began to pray Ephesians 3:17-19 for myself:
Today I re-remembered things about blessings that I had disremembered. I word it this way because I have realized that there are a lot of truths that I haven’t exactly forgotten, I just have temdisremembered them. And when I remember them, it’s not exactly like I am remembering them, it’s more like I am remembering them again. You know, RE-remembering them.
Before I begin writing what I want to write, I need to explain a few things. Several years ago, I discovered the website, Hebrew4christians.com. This site has free Hebrew lessons, and my son and I have been using its resources to teach ourselves Hebrew. It has more than Hebrew language lessons, however. It also provides information about common Hebrew blessings, Jewish prayers, the Scriptures, the Jewish holidays, and weekly Torah portions from a Messianic point of view. I have learned an incredible amount of truth from this site, the awesome beauty of Scripture has deepened, and my faith has grown.