3 Reasons Brokenness Can Lead to Joy

Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice.

When my children were very young we lived in the parsonage next to the church. I taught piano lessons in the afternoon and took my kids to a neighborhood babysitter before my students came. One day I was running a little late. I picked up my toddler, grabbed the diaper bag, and told my 4-year-old to hurry up. I rushed out the door and locked it behind me before realized I had left my keys in the house. Ordinarily, this would not have been a big problem because I could have just walked over to the church next door and gotten a set of keys from my pastor husband. But that particular day he was at a pastors’ conference an hour’s drive away.

My mind clicked through my options.

Option 1: Go to a neighbor’s house and call a locksmith. (Much too slow and expensive.)

Option 2: Break the small window in the door and unlock the lock. (Much faster and probably less expensive than the locksmith.)

So I grabbed a big rock and took my daughter’s doll blanket from her. I wrapped the blanket around the rock and my hand and smashed the window. Now I could unlock the door, grab the keys, take the kids to the babysitter and get back before my students came.

It all worked out very well—except for the fact that when my husband came home later that day he thought a robber had broken in!

And I had to admit that I was the one who had broken the window.

But I had to break the window in order to unlock the door.

I find this is true in my emotional life as well. Sometimes God uses painful experiences to break into my life. Sometimes it takes a disappointment or a sorrow for God to get my attention. I don’t enjoy the painful periods in my life, but sometimes it is as if those experiences break through the stuff of the world and help me feel God’s presence more clearly.

God Breaks Through 

King David experienced brokenness. The prophet Nathan confronted the king with his sin and David responded with repentance. His pride was broken. After he confessed his sin, he asked God to restore his joy:

Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Psalm 51:8

I, too, have experienced this brokenness. And this joy. When I realize my sin, I feel the burden of my mistake. But when I confess, God gives grace. My heavy spirit is once again free to enjoy the forgiveness and freedom of mercy.

But we are not always broken because of sin. Sometimes we are crushed by thoughtless comments of others. Our lives are shattered by tragedy. Our spirits are fragmented by grief. We don’t know if we will ever find joy again.

That’s when we need to remember that brokenness can be the beginning of joy–God’s incomprehensible joy. Our heavenly Father can use that very brokenness to break through with His presence.

3 Reasons Brokenness Can Be the Beginning of Joy

3 Reasons Brokenness Can Lead to Joy

Brokenness can be the beginning of joy because it tears away the unimportant. Without all the clutter of life in the way, we can see God.

Brokenness can be the beginning of joy because it pushes us to our Savior. We can see Him holding out His hands to us, waiting for us to step into His embrace. We can see the mercy and love in His eyes.

Brokenness can be the beginning of joy because God’s joy isn’t limited by our situation. Jesus can transform our brokenness into joy. A joy that can’t be explained by our circumstances. A bubbling up of peace and happiness that makes no sense except in the presence of God.

Sometimes our heavenly Father uses pain to break through the myriad of distractions in our lives and unlock the door to His presence.

Sometimes joy begins in brokenness.

easy joyIf you would like to uncover more joy in your life, check out my new eCourse titled Easy Joy: 12 Places to Find Joy in a Discouraging World.

 

This course helps readers:

  • Identify specific enemies of joy
  • Find joy even in darkness and disappointing circumstances
  • Learn how the joy of the Lord can be strength
  • Discover practical steps to a joy-filled life

Sign up now and you will also receive a bonus lesson that will help you continue to find joy even after the course is finished.

Click here for more information and to sign up for the course.

3 Myths About Joy

It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

I’ve got joy like a fountain

I’ve got joy like a fountain

I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.

The preschoolers in my music class love to sing this song. And when they do, I have no doubt that they have joy.

But what do we do when joy doesn’t naturally bubble out of our souls?

When disappointments are around every corner and happiness is nowhere to be found?

When we feel sure that we will never see joy again?

Life is often difficult, discouraging, and disappointing. But before you give up on joy, see if you are believing one of these three myths about joy.

Myth 1: Joy and happiness are the same thing.

When you win a trip to the Bahamas or get a promotion it’s easy to find happiness. But when medical bills pile up and your job is teetering on the brink of corporate layoffs, happiness hides. Happiness is based on circumstances.

Joy, however, is a deeper sense of contentment that is available even when life is full of challenges. Think of the apostle Paul in the book of Acts. Even when he and his friend Silas have been beaten and thrown into prison, they spend their time in the jail cell joyfully praising God (Acts 16:16-40). God’s joy is present even in difficulty.

Remember:

Joy is the kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens. David Stendl-Rast

3 Myths About

Myth 2: If I could only have __________, then I would have joy.

We often make joy contingent on certain criteria. When I get married, I’ll be happy. When I have a child, I’ll have joy. When I can afford that Dooney and Bourke designer bag, then I’ll know I’ve made it and then I’ll be satisfied. But studies show that making joy dependent on some future event or possession only postpones joy. Often when we finally get what we want, we start longing for the next thing on our wish list and simply move our criteria for joy further down the line.

But focusing on the blessings we already have, inspires joy in the present. There is a saying I love,

It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

I’ve found this to be true. I may not have everything I want, but when I focus on the blessings I already have–like my loving family and supportive friends–I can find joy. When I appreciate a cup of my favorite Mango Passionfruit Tea or a hug from those preschoolers, I discover pockets of joy in disappointing days.

Myth 3: I don’t have any control over the amount of joy in my life.

It is true that we don’t have much control over what happens to us in life, but this does not have to banish joy. Theologian Henri Nouwen wrote,

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.

That sounds a little like what James said in the Bible, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2 NLT). Now most of us don’t view hardship as an opportunity for happiness, but James goes on, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:3 NLT).

If we can’t find joy in our circumstances, we can find it in what those circumstances bring us: Lessons learned. Endurance strengthened. Intimacy with God renewed.

We can choose joy because we know God is with us. In Emmanuel joy is always available.

Abandon the myths of joy. In this world we will always have disappointment. But in Christ, we can always have joy.

Next step: What myth about joy do you sometimes believe? Write out the quote or Bible passage that refutes that myth, and post it where you will see it often this week.

easy joyIf you would like to uncover more joy in your life, check out my new eCourse titled Easy Joy: 12 Places to Find Joy in a Discouraging World.

 

This course helps readers:

  • Identify specific enemies of joy
  • Find joy even in dark and disappointing circumstances
  • Learn how the joy of the Lord can be strength
  • Discover practical steps to a joy-filled life

Sign up now and you will also receive a bonus lesson that will help you continue to find joy even after the course is finished.

 

Click here for more information and to sign up for the course.

The Secret to Finding More Joy

we might not always sense God’s presence. It might be hidden behind some clouds.

It was a gloomy, dreary Friday.  

The doorbell rang and a crew of carpet layers entered. Soon my house was in a state of chaos. The noise of old carpet being scraped off and new carpet being nailed down filled the air. Every room was either crammed with workers or stuffed with the furniture from the rooms that were being worked on.

The only place left for me to sit was in a little corner of the kitchen.

To make the situation even more memorable, I had not rescued my computer from my desk before the workers completely blocked it off with dressers and mattresses. I couldn’t do any of the work I planned to do that day. To pass the time, I decided to read a book I had checked out of the library. It didn’t take me long to become completely engrossed in the novel City of Tranquil Light. I read page after page and cried through almost every one.

So here I was sitting in my kitchen listening to the pounding of the carpet layers, dabbing my eyes and blowing my nose as I read this heart-searing story. The view out of my patio door reflected the sadness of the book. Gray clouds still filled the sky. Thick storm clouds blocked out almost all the sunlight.

Then it happened. The sun peeked through a hole in the clouds. Light filled the kitchen. The atmosphere changed for just a moment.

I thought—that is what God’s joy is like. Even when your world is in chaos, even when your emotions are like a roller coaster, joy in the Lord is always available because He is always there.

The trouble is that we might not always sense God’s presence. It might be hidden behind some clouds.

But His joy is there. In the turmoil. In the noise. In the gloom.

King David wrote,

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11

According to David,

Joy is found in God’s presence. I often look for it in my current circumstances and am dismally disappointed. I can’t find it in the clouds of heartache. God is the only true source of joy.

God fills us with joy. The world tells me that success or cute shoes will fill me with joy, but that joy will never last. I have to look to the Father for a fresh supply.

Eternal pleasures are at God’s right hand. When we are with God–holding His hand–we are given lasting joy, not the fleeting happiness of the world that melts like a chocolate bar on a hot day.

The world may be a discouraging place, but when we wait in God’s presence, He will break through the chaos and darkness of our lives to give us a glimpse of joy.

Next step: Write out Psalm 16:11 on a sticky note and post it where you will see it often today. Remind yourself to wait in God’s presence when you need a fresh supply of joy.

easy joyIf you would like to uncover more joy in your life, check out my new eCourse titled Easy Joy: 12 Places to Find Joy in a Discouraging World.

 

This course helps readers:

  • Identify specific enemies of joy
  • Find joy even in darkness and disappointing circumstances
  • Learn how the joy of the Lord can be strength
  • Discover practical steps to a joy-filled life

Sign up now and you will also receive a bonus lesson that will help you continue to find joy even after the course is finished.

Click here for more information and to sign up for the course.

The Secret to Finding More

 

 

When You Struggle to Rejoice

 

phil 4-4

Does that command in Philippians 4:4 make you wince?

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I certainly have days when it’s hard to be full of joy. Hard to rejoice in anything.

And what is rejoicing anyway?

I looked up the word rejoice in my Greek dictionary and found that it comes from the word chairo.

It carries the idea of being glad about something. It is the picture of a person who is euphoric over something that has happened. Other words to describe chairo would be overjoyed, elated, ecstatic, exhilarated, thrilled, jubilant, or even rapturous. (from Sparkling Gems From the Greek, p. 682)

When I read that I asked myself–when was the last time I was purely ecstatic about God? When did I feel thrilled in God’s presence?

I think it’s been too long.

But perhaps it’s because I keep looking for joy in other things. I expect to find it in success. Or friendship.

I wait for joy to happen when everything goes according to my plan.

And because that isn’t very likely, joy remains elusive.

Perhaps I should be glad that I can’t always find joy in something other than Jesus. Because then in my desperation, I’m forced to look to the only reliable Source of joy–my Savior.

God doesn’t tell us to be euphoric over success, or achievement, or even cute shoes because none of those are lasting.

God asks to be elated in Him.

Question: What has brought you joy in the past week?

struggle to rejoice

Where Do You Find Joy?

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Joy can be an elusive commodity. I often wish it were available at my corner convenience store. (In fact I saw a convenience store in China named Easy Joy. You can read about it here.) Because I am searching for joy I have been diving into God’s Word to find out what God had to say on the subject.

One thing I learned is that:

Joy is found in God’s presence.

Psalms 16:11 says:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. ( NIV 1986)

God fills me with joy in His presence. There’s no doubt about it. When I am turned toward God, looking at Him, I feel joy. When I am facing my problems, I feel anxiety, disappointment, and doubt.

Where do you feel closest to God?

For me, one of the places I feel closest to my Creator is when I am in nature. Places like the Shawneee National Forest in the picture above make me realize that God is so much bigger, so much more original, so much more amazing than my mind can comprehend. Looking at what He has made helps me to see Him.

But I live in a city and it requires time and effort for me to get out into nature. I admit–I don’t make that effort very often.

God tapped me on the shoulder and asked:

Wouldn’t it make sense to go often where you feel closest to me?

Whether it is in a brick and mortar church or a forest cathedral, shouldn’t we yearn to go where God seems near? Whether it’s sitting in a quiet room listening to music or skiing down a snowy mountain, shouldn’t we make the effort to go where we can almost touch Him?

Even though it’s February, even though it’s cold. I’m going to go outside and worship. I’m going where I sense God is near.

Question: Where do you feel closest to God?

Book Review: Fight Back With Joy

HowToFightBackWithJoy“More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

Author Margaret Feinberg makes this profound observation in her new book Fight Back With Joy.

Her journey with joy began by choosing “joy” as her one word for the year. She expected the year to be a mix of giddy feelings, spreading kindness, and banning worry. But in the middle of this year of joy, life threw another ingredient into the mix: cancer. Not a very common ingredient in a recipe for joy. Fight Back With Joy is Margaret’s story of how she found joy in the midst of pain.

But the book isn’t just a retelling of Margaret’s battle with cancer. Instead, she writes for all of us who fight for joy in our life battles with money troubles, broken relationships, and painful loneliness. Through her story and the stories of other joy-fighters in Scripture, Margaret gives all of us the tools to discover joy in the midst of life’s heartaches.

Margaret writes:

The Bible insists that joy is more than a feeling: it’s an action. We don’t just sense joy; we embody it by the way we respond to the circumstances before us.

What is the genesis of joy? I believe that, at its core, joy emanates from the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us.

This resonates with me because I have found this to be true. If I simply take time to remember God’s fierce love even when deadlines loom, over-packed schedules crush my soul, and life comes crashing in, I am comforted. When I take the time to hear God whisper, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) my heart pushes back the deadlines, the busyness, and the looming darkness to rest in the joy of God’s grace.

Margaret reminds us that no matter what life brings, God can help us fight our way back to joy. Her book and Bible study give us the tools to win the battle.

Purchase the book here and here and the Bible study here!

Question: How do you fight for joy?

Where Joy is Found

happiness and peace

Where do you find happiness? Where do you look for joy?

I often think I can find happiness in this world. So I outline bigger goals, work harder and longer at achieving them. I buy more beautiful things or schedule more fun in my life.

But happiness in this world is elusive. The moment I’m within arm’s reach of my manufactured bliss, it seems to move down the block.

Lately I’ve been reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. And I especially like what he has to say about happiness:

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on… That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

All my reaching for more–more success, more things, more activities–does not bring me true happiness.

Because true happiness and joy are only found in God.

Question: In what other things have you sometimes tried to find happiness? Did it work?

When You’re Struggling to Rejoice

phil 4-4

Does that command in Philippians 4:4 make you wince?

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

I certainly have days when it’s hard to be full of joy. Hard to rejoice in anything.

And what is rejoicing anyway?

I looked up the word rejoice in my Greek dictionary and found that it comes from the word chairo.

It carries the idea of being glad about something. It is the picture of a person who is euphoric over something that has happened. Other words to describe chairo would be overjoyed, elated, ecstatic, exhilarated, thrilled, jubilant, or even rapturous. (from Sparkling Gems From the Greek, p. 682)

When I read that I asked myself–when was the last time I was purely ecstatic about God? When did I feel thrilled in God’s presence?

I think it’s been too long.

But perhaps it’s because I keep looking for joy in other things. I expect to find it in success. Or friendship.

I wait for joy to happen when everything goes according to my plan.

And because that isn’t very likely, joy remains elusive.

Perhaps I should be glad that I can’t always find joy in something other than Jesus. Because then in my desperation, I’m forced to look to the only reliable Source of joy–my Savior.

God doesn’t tell us to be euphoric over success, or achievement, or even cute shoes because none of those are lasting.

God asks to be elated in Him.

Question: What has brought you joy in the last week?

God is a God of Celebration?

This month has been a time of celebration for my family. My son (the baby of the family) got married on August 9! My husband performed the service, I sang a song, the little grandsons were all ring bearers. At the reception we feasted, laughed, and danced until our feet ached.

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August 9th was not only my son’s wedding day, but my wedding anniversary! Here’s a picture of John and me with our wedding photo.

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This August 9 will be a time of celebration that will live long in my memory.

Did you know our God is a God of celebration?

For much of my life, that thought seemed incongruous with the Lord I knew. Growing up, God seemed to be a God of serious thought and solemn ceremonies, not a God of rejoicing and celebrating.

But looking closer in the Scriptures, I see God truly is a God of celebration. In the Old Testament Yahweh commanded His chosen people to observe seven feasts each year. For three of these feasts they were to abandon their work and travel to Jerusalem to celebrate their God (Deuteronomy 16:16). These were times of feasting and rejoicing—times to thank God for what He had done for them in the past and revel in the blessings He had bestowed on them in the present.

In the New Testament Jesus was known as a partier. The Pharisees criticized Him for eating and drinking with sinners (Matthew 9:11). People wondered why the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s followers fasted, but Jesus’ disciples went on eating and drinking (Luke 6:33). Parties were a favorite theme in Jesus’ parables. The people in His stories celebrated finding a lost lamb, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15). Jesus even compared the kingdom of God to a sumptuous banquet (Luke 14:15-24).

Too often my worship of my generous, caring, loving God is sedate, somber, and dull. But I want to learn how to celebrate!

Instead of absent-mindedly mumbling my way through worship on Sunday, I want to passionately express love to my King. Instead of looking cool, calm, and collected, I’m going to clap along with the praise songs and sing the hymns at the top of my lungs.

Maybe I’ll even dance. Some churches even use liturgical dance to celebrate our awesome God. I may not dance in church, but maybe I can do it in the privacy of my own home. Admittedly this may feel a bit risky and undignified. But I will be in good company. King David was criticized by his wife, Michal, when He worshiped without inhibitions. David was focused on praising God and not on how he looked. He told Michal, “I will celebrate before the Lord” (2 Samuel 6:21 emphasis mine).

So this week celebrate our awesome God. Sing and clap and dance your worship!

Question: Give your reaction to the statement: Our God is a God of celebration.


Three Simple Things to Help You Find Joy in God’s Presence

Lighted candle. Silver cross. Digital timer.

What do these three items have in common?

At first glance in might not seem they have any connection.

But all three items proved very useful in my quest for my joy.

I have been concentrating on finding joy in God’s presence. Because really, the Lord is the only reliable source of joy. Sunny days make me happy, but this past week we’ve had rain almost every day. Friends bring a smile to my face, but sometimes they are busy–too busy to get together. I love chocolate, but not what it does to my hips.

However, whenever I turn my attention toward God, I discover joy.

So I set out how to do that more often. I asked myself: How could I remind myself to stop and turn my heart to Christ at different times during the day?

Here are three things that worked for me:

1. I lit a candle during my devotional time in the morning. Somehow this made Jesus feel more present as I read His Word to me that day. Christ, the Light of the world, filled the room, illuminated Scripture, and chased all the dark out my heart.

2. I took a small silver cross that usually sits on a bookcase in the family room and started placing it in odd places around the house. Because the cross had sat in that one place on the bookshelf so long, it had become almost invisible. Now when I saw it in the kitchen, near my computer, on my vanity tray it reminded me: Jesus is here. My Savior loves me. Christ makes this place sacred.

3. I bought a new digital timer and put it near my computer. I set it for 20 minutes or 35 minutes or any other random time. When my new little gadget beeped, it reminded me to stop what I was doing for a minute, close my eyes, and put myself in God’s presence. Sometimes I would also take the time to listen to a Christian song that would help me see Christ in my mind’s eye. Another way to use this technique would be to set an alarm on your watch or phone to beep at various times during the day to remind you–God is here.

God is here. What an amazing thought! He is always near, but I don’t usually pay attention.

What I found was that when I did pay attention, I found joy. Joy in that moment. Joy that spilled out into all the other moments in my day.

Joy is found in God’s presence.

And these small items helped me to remember:

God is here.

 Question: What do you do to remind yourself that God is near?