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I need this one to sink deeply into my heart today.
It has been a day of painful awareness…of stark realities that, frankly, frighten and sadden me.
No, no dreadful medical diagnoses, or other such troubles. My concerns are of a sort that have troubled many people (if not most) throughout all of history. The details don't matter. You have your own troubles to bring to this reading.
Despair and depression beckon. I know their voices well. But I don't intend to answer their call.
No, I'm not "toughening up." I'm not counseling myself to "Keep a stiff upper lip," "Don't Worry, Be Happy," or "Just have faith that everything will be okay." I don't have time to waste on false "help."
I need real joy. Not the kind that we humans can pluck on our own heartstrings, but the kind that vibrates in sympathy with Heaven. The kind that plays forth from a stroke of the Master's hand.
I need joy for protection, and for strength.
I don't need the kind of joy that denies reality. I don't need the protection of a hiding place. I need the kind of joy-armor that puts a smile on my lips as I head into a battle called "tomorrow." I need a joy that can weep with the genuine sorrows of life, but still rejoice in the divine "Nevertheless."
"The joy of the LORD is your strength." (Neh 8:10b)
I can honestly say that I'm not accustomed to praying for joy. I couldn't have done so until recently. Tender emotions were for suckers, remember? So asking for joy would have made me feel downright idiotic.
Oh, I accepted joy when God sent it, and gladly. And He has sent it; sometimes in the beauty of His creation, sometimes in prayer, sometimes in the glory of a soul-dance called Sign Language. But somehow whenever joy has passed, I have tended to see its passing as proof that I was a fool to have entertained it at all.
Sucker. I don't know when or how that word took such deep root in my soul. It wasn't used in my childhood home. But I feel the scorn of it even now, knowing that, when I'm through writing this, I'm going to hit my knees and pray for joy. I think the request will stick in my throat at first, but only for a moment. God is working change in this middle-aged heart. I will ask for joy, knowing that it is His will to give it to me. How could He not want to grow the Fruit of His own Spirit?
I will ask for joy to protect me from depression, from despair, from anger, and from surliness. I will ask Him to give me joy to keep me from committing all of the sins that attend those heart attitudes, and from all of the regrets that would follow. I will ask for joy to strengthen me to persevere and even to thrive right here where God has placed me. I will ask for it to bless everyone around me, especially those who once felt my strength only as anger. And I will ask for joy to be buttressed by love, and peace, and by all of the other facets of God's spiritual fruit.
And I will not close my heart against joy when He gives it. Joy is not for suckers. It is for those who step into His presence (Ps. 16:11).
That's where I want to live.