I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I had almost forgotten about this verse. When things are smooth-sailing and happy-happy, it's easy to forget. Comfort and peace are lovely and desirable, but they don't drive me to God like trials do.
With the crashing down of my career dreams and subsequent financial strain, I find myself in painfully familiar territory. But as things are getting tighter and tighter, I'm experiencing the presence of God in a powerfully personal way. God's gone out of His way this week to show me what a gift this particular brand of trial is, and has been, in my life.
I've been short on joy (pun fully intended 😊) for a long time, and it was only when my situation became desperate that I rediscovered (the) real joy. As long as I believed, even subconsciously, that I could take care of my self and run my own life successfully, there was an underlying hint of dissatisfaction and discontent that shrouded everything in subtle shades of grey. As long as I felt the responsibility to solve my own problems and make my own decisions; while I insisted on holding the reins of my future; when I ceased depending on God for direction and inspiration and provision, my joy ebbed.
What a wonderful thing it is to have no other choice but to depend on Him to bring me through a particular situation! (Correction: I always have a choice; it's just that there are times when He makes the choice a really easy one 😊) The Message puts it like this, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours."
I was dismayed and a little ashamed to witness my own reaction to recent rejection and redirection. My faith really floundered for awhile. All summer, anxiety and unease were my constant companions, along with the heavy burden of self-inflicted self-reliance. I'd been looking at the goodness of God through the lens of my circumstances, not the other way around.
But God loves me too much to let me flounder forever. He collected all my broken pieces and is putting me back together. He never forces me into anything, though - I love that about Him. He's been gently calling me to surrender to Him again - it's a decision I need to make over and over and over. Every time I take it all back on my own shoulders, God's kindness (eventually, because I'm pretty hard-headed) leads me back to repentance and surrender. One of the gracious gifts of this trial has been release from that heaviness. I'm so thankful!
Life is so much better, fuller, deeper, richer, sweeter with Him! That's where (the) real joy is - with Him! That's where I keep uncovering who I really am, where I'm encouraged and empowered to affirm my identity and value and purpose. He's reminded me that I've already been set free to rejoice, to mourn, to connect, to create, to work, to rest, to dream, to delight - to live.