Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

For while we were still weak, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!

ImageIt was a near perfect day.

I was very tired the night before and I didn’t set my alarm. After all, I have two alarm clocks ages 6 and 7.  They are relentless in their early morning wake ups.  And although, they did wake me up briefly,  they just went and played.  Beautiful!

I woke later than I’ve slept in years.  I thanked God for rest and began what was to be a great day.

My oldest daughter was downstairs with the dogs watching TV – and yes, the dogs were watching TV too.  Honestly – all the “children” in my house are enamored by any kind of screen!

As soon as I entered the kitchen, she shut off the TV and we planned breakfast.  We discussed making breakfast in bed for the boys, but decided we just wanted to get the day started!  The boys dragged themselves downstairs shortly thereafter and we got our day moving…with chocolate chip pancakes and oatmeal with all the fixings.

Emma and I ran out to pick up a couple of things including a soda for everyone.  Soda is a treat now.  We have been trying to lessen our sugar intake – no easy feat.

The rest of our day was spent outside working on the yard together.  Music blaring, sun shining, and dogs romping.  It was just perfect…except for 1 snake, 2 black widows, 1 brown recluse, lots of doggie landmines, and the task of filling 28 bags with leaves!

But the yard looks great!  And the soda tasted wonderful…although we all ended the day with headaches – either from dehydration or sugar…or both.

We enjoyed dinner on the patio and a family devotional around the fire pit roasting marshmallows.  (When we go back to sugar, we go back big!)

This day was such a blessing especially in light of previous week which had been a little challenging at times.  It included but was not limited to sick children and an overflowing toilet which poured nasty water down into the kitchen.  (I will say that my house is now very well disinfected, but yuck!!!)

This near perfect day reminded me of how I’m so easily impacted by my circumstances…whether they are good or bad.

My kids noticed my happy attitude that lovely day.  My son asked if I could sleep in everyday because I was so much less stressed.  My oldest daughter said, “Well, maybe it was because we were actually really helping mom today.”  I laughed and said, “I think it was a little bit of both.”

But I don’t want my emotions and attitude to be dependent on my children’s obedience or my sleep habits or anything else for that matter.

Lately God keeps bringing me to the book of Colossians – particularly 3:12-15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgive you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful. 

Those verses don’t only describe who I am, but how I want to be.

I am – chosen, holy, beloved.

I want to be – compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving, peaceful and thankful.

So how do I do that?  Even on a bad day?

It struck me that Colossians is a letter written by Paul, a prisoner, to share the secret of contentment and fulfillment with the church at Colossae – people who were in a much better situation than he was.  Isn’t that amazing!

I really love Paul’s perspective on things.  I love that he doesn’t offer Christian platitudes or a “name-it-claim-it” mentality or even a “do-good–or-else” mindset.

He shares often how difficult life can be.  In fact in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 he shares how he was to the point of giving up.

For we do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:8-10

He doesn’t sugar coat the challenge of living a life of commitment to Christ.

BUT….

he also tells what is possible in this life of being a Christ follower… what we are called to…

I’d say the one word Paul uses a lot…the word he calls us to is JOY

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

As I typed that verse do you know what hit me?  That it wasn’t “Rejoice!!!”   That’s how I would have written it.  But my teenage daughter tells me I use too many exclamation points – so maybe it’s just me?!

It’s one of those words which begs for exclamation points, especially when it’s an imperative.  But maybe the reason he doesn’t add the excitement is because it is supposed to be a way of life not a cheer leading competition.

After all, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 he says, “Rejoice always”.  Amazingly, this joy thing is supposed to be an all-the-time thing.  Imagine that?  Honestly, I can’t…but then again, I can.

I can because like I said before – there is a lot to be joyful about isn’t there!

Image

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                1 Thessalonians 5:16

That day was a joyful day.  I think every day should be a joyful day.

I’m not talking about being happy – I’m talking about joy.

Happy is hard…at least for me because it is based on my circumstances, what I feel.

Joy is another matter….joy is not about what I feel; it’s about what I know.

So what do I know…

 

I have an eternal inheritance and hope.

Nothing can separate me from Him.

I’m a new creature in Christ now.

I’m more than a conqueror.

I’m beloved and precious.

I’m forgiven and holy.

I’m redeemed.

I’m blessed.

I’m His.

 

I’m those things on a good day and a bad day.

I’m blessed no matter the circumstances of my day.

I was blessed the day we enjoyed sunshine and sleeping late.

And, although I can’t believe I’m saying it, I was blessed the day the toilet leaked all over the place.

Even though it was disgusting with a capital D, we did laugh, my bathroom and kitchen were cleaned…seriously cleaned, and we all worked together well.  Those are all good things.

But even  if we had not laughed but rather fought and yelled and despaired, I’d still be blessed because God is my God.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved with various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7