Reclaim the Joy
“Wanna come fishing with us, Grami?” asked my grandson, Deacon, as I sat on the veranda enjoying my book, coffee, and the cool morning quiet of the surrounding mountains. He was up early.
I’m not a fan of fishing, but I am a fan of my grandkids. Laying aside my book, I followed Deacon and his sister Eden to the dock where their dad stood baiting the fishing lines. I sat in a lawn chair next to my daughter to watch the activity. Her family was vacationing in the North Georgia Mountains near my home and had asked me to join them.
It wasn’t long before the sounds of excitement signaled someone had a bite. Surprised, I saw it was Eden who is usually more reserved than her brother. She didn’t rival Deacon’s noisiness, but the amazement and joy on her face was something to behold.
Her first catch! A live wiggly fish dangled on the end of her line. As I looked into Eden’s face, I caught the excitement and clapped in delight. I was taken back to my childhood summers when each day unveiled new and wondrous discoveries to be made.
And I had to wonder: When do we stop looking at each day with anything less than joyful anticipation? Why do we resist getting animated about life? Maybe the peer-pressured years of our teens change us. Maybe we hide our emotions because the world tells us we’re unsophisticated for believing there’s anything new under the sun. Maybe we let the disappointments and troubles we encounter rob us of hope.
When we let boredom or cynicism become our default mode, we aren’t experiencing life abundantly as Jesus intends. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 19:14 (NIV):
”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Jesus wants all His children, young and old, to enjoy life. And when we show our joy, we serve as witnesses for Him and the abundant life He came to give (John 10:10).
Joy is a response to God’s gifts and to who we are in Him. It’s not difficult to find and express joy.
- We start by remembering each new day is from God.
- We express gratitude for this gift.
- We open our eyes and see signs of God’s love all around us.
- And just like children, we celebrate.
“This is the day the LORD has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 CSB)
Thank you, Lord, for this day you have made. Make my eyes and heart like those of little children. Help me see the many reasons I have to rejoice and be glad. And remind me not to hide my joy because, by sharing it with others, I am showing them You. Amen.
What do you have to celebrate today?
God Is So Much More
by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.org
For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth – (Isaiah 54:5).
It is natural and good for us to turn to God for comfort when we are overwhelmed by life. Scripture, prayer, and meditation can help us through anxiety, loneliness, divorce, the death of a loved one, and depression. Divorce rates continue to skyrocket, and many women (including single mothers) struggle to fill the hole in their lives with promises of God’s faithfulness. Many women use Scripture to remind themselves that, like Hosea married Gomer, the LORD said:
“I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (Hosea 2:19).
As I have been pondering this notion of God acting as husband to an aging single, a neglected wife, a grieving widow, or a lonely divorcee, something interesting came to mind. Something that maybe changes the way we think about God as a husband figure.
Marriage today is not what it was for biblical authors. Today, in the Western world at least, marriage is a union based on commitment, love, and common interest. We marry someone who shares our worldview, so we can journey through life together. We marry someone to whom we are physically attracted, so that we can enjoy them to the fullest. We marry for romance; we marry for personal fulfillment. Mostly, we marry because we want to – not because we have to. Women who remain single are fully capable of earning a living, doing good works for the Kingdom, and enjoying life.
Women in the ancient near east had a much more complex understanding of marriage. Yes, in Genesis 2, the Song of Solomon, and other places, we see that God’s plan was for marriage to create emotional and physical fulfillment and pleasure. But marriage for ancient Israelite women was more than emotional and physical partnership. It was – literally – a lifesaver. A woman who married gained the chance to have her own home. A woman who married gained the chance to have sons (essentially the life-goal of any ancient near-eastern woman). A woman who married would be provided for, fed, and cared for. If anyone hurt her, she had a legal protector and a place to find safety in much greater measure than if she still lived in her father’s household (or, God forbid, had no father or family).
Kind of makes looking to God as “husband” to fulfill emotional needs seem… pretty shallow, doesn’t it? Check out this passage in Isaiah that really elaborates on the significance of the metaphor:
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (Isaiah 54:1-5, emphasis mine).
To ancient Israel, saying “God is your husband” meant that God was their redeemer, God was their savior from captivity, their savior from barrenness.
An important realization comes with this fuller understanding of the God-as-husband metaphor. We can realize that, while God is protector and ultimate satisfaction, he is not a cure-all for our momentary pain. God never promises that his relationship with us can –or should– eliminate every negative emotion that we feel. We must have grace for ourselves, and grace for each other, to mourn and work through pain, without guilt or shame for doing so.
“Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone … Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” – Matthew 24:36, 42 NASB
For centuries, Rome had ruled much of the world, but gradually it had declined and become vulnerable. Then suddenly, on this day in 410 AD, the Visigoths, a tribe of Teutonic people, sacked Rome.
This invasion caught the Roman leaders and military off guard. Procopius, a sixth-century historian, recalled that the emperor in Rome, Honorius, never had “a thought of war in his mind” but simply was happy “if men allowed him to remain quiet in his palace.”
Many people thought an invasion was impossible. Depending on Rome’s reputation, some assumed it always would be safe. Many Christians thought God always would protect Rome since the empire had been Christian for almost one hundred years.
After Rome was destroyed, many wondered why God had allowed this destruction. Grappling with this question helped motivate St. Augustine to write his monumental work The City of God. Remember, God is not bound to explain why He allows anything, but He is always in control; He is always good.
Many people go about their lives, just like Honorius, unconcerned about the future. Others feel confident that they have nothing to worry about. They forget the Bible’s warning that no knows the hour when Jesus may return. We always need to “be on the alert” (Matthew 25:13).
Today, seek to be faithful with the tasks God has given you. Focus on His Kingdom. Make sure you are alert and ready for Jesus’ return.
By: Charles Sourgeon
“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1
Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 31:10-25
On one occasion I pleaded for a friendly society, and not knowing a more appropriate text, I selected this, “Take no thought for the morrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Some of my hearers, when I announced my text, feared the principle of it was altogether hostile to anything like an insurance, or providing for the future, but I just showed them that it was not, as I looked upon it. It is a positive command that we are to take no anxious thought concerning tomorrow. Now, how can I do that? How can I put myself into such a position that I can carry out this commandment of taking no thought for the morrow? If I were a man struggling in life, and had it in my power to insure for something which would take care of wife and family in after days, if I did not do it, you might preach to me for all eternity about not taking thought for the morrow; but I could not help doing it, when I saw those I loved around me unprovided for. Let it be in God’s word, I could not practise it; I should still be at some time or other taking thought for the morrow. But let me go to one of the many excellent institutions which exist, and let me see that all is provided for, I come home and say, “Now, I know how to practise Christ’s command of taking no thought for the morrow; I pay the policy-money once a year, and I take no further thought about it, for I have no occasion to do so now, and have obeyed the very spirit and letter of Christ’s command.” Our Lord meant that we were to get rid of cares.