God delights in you. You are His beloved. We have all heard it, but do we really believe it? Do we see the evidence in our lives?
I am part of an online prayer group that developed over the past several months. It started with just 3 or 4 of us and has developed into a group of 7 women. Some of us have never even met. We celebrate joys and cry for each other’s suffering, but most importantly we pray. Over the past several months there have been many answered prayers. Most recently one of the group members got into her dream school. When praying for her I didn’t know for sure that this was the school for her. My prayer was that God’s will be done and that he know the desire of her heart. It’s amazing that His will and her dream were perfectly aligned, and her prayer was answered in just the way she imagined. As she announced the news to the group she said, “I’m shaking!” As I read the news I imagined God’s response to His dear daughter’s excitement, like a parent able to give his child her dream. My response, “Imagine God shaking with excitement along with you.”
Every God-given joy is multiplied when you reflect on His response to your joy. It comes full circle. He gives joy, we show joy, He rejoices. Happiness doesn’t do this.
Last Sunday I met with my small group and discussed sin. It was the topic of our discipleship chapter. One person asked something like, “Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you weren’t a follower of God? Did you ever try it out even for just a season?” I admitted I had. In college I thought perhaps I could believe in God and still do whatever I wanted in pursuit of happiness. From that experience I learned that happiness is fleeting, but joy lasts even in our sobriety, even in our solitude. If you find you always need someone around, a drink in your hand, a comedy on TV to be happy then you aren’t experiencing joy. And one thing I’m slowly learning is that I can’t believe in God and do whatever because it feels good and be a follower of Jesus. For one it feels so double-minded, like multiple lives. Secondly, it snuffs out all joy. There are several other reasons, but these are most relevant to the topic at hand.
If you are seeking joy over fleeting happiness try this:
Last night I watched Saving Mr. Banks. It is a touching film about Walt Disney’s persistence to purchase the rights to P.L. Travers’ book so he could produce the movie Mary Poppins. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Mary Poppins that I don’t recall the whole plot, but from what I remember Ms. Poppins was quite the relief from what the children were used to. In the movie Saving Mr. Banks you get a new perspective of what the story of Mary Poppins is really about. The true story really isn’t close to what Disney brought to the big screen. Disney brought the ending that every child dreams to have, an ending of love and reconciliation.
The reality is that many of us don’t reconcile with our parents the hurts of our childhood. We don’t have a magical nanny to come rescue us and bring unity back into our broken, dysfunctional families. As I watched Saving Mr. Banks I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I have a tremendously dysfunctional family? We’ve all done and said things to hurt one another and yet we still spend time together, call each other often, etc. Why didn’t I need a Mary Poppins when my childhood had its rough times as well?’ We all need a Mary Poppins sometime in our lives. The answer is that my Mary Poppins was more magical and mysterious, more fun and exciting, more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious than Ms. Poppins could ever be because my rescuer, my protector, my encourager was Jesus Christ.
Fortunately my mom talked to me about God when I was a kid, even before we started going to church or calling ourselves Christians. Later on we went to church where I learned a lot about Jesus and all his power and might. I learned from a very young age that God was the place to run when I was scared, whether I was scared of the dark or scared of how things were going. He was always faithful.
So while it’s cute and fun to believe in this magical singing nanny, Ms. Poppins is a far cry from our true Savior. I don’t want to ignore, however, that God uses people like nannies or friends or strangers or pastors to speak truth and life into us, but I just want to point out that without Jesus our human strength falls short of the redemption and deliverance we all yearn for. I know you yearn for it too because you were born to yearn for Him. So while Mary Poppins saves Mr. Banks, Jesus saves all who believe.
Have you ever looked at a landscape and thought “God paints the most beautiful pictures”? During the week of Christmas my parents and I went on a beautiful hike at Upper Bidwell Park in Chico, California. The landscape is gorgeous with oak trees sprinkled over rolling foothills and rocky ridges. We hiked from the base of an incline along Big Chico Creek. When we reached as far as we could go for the day and looked out across the creek to the climbing rocky ridges my mom exclaimed, “God paints the most beautiful pictures.” Looking down at my feet I noticed the dark, almost black rock winding down to the creek, lumpy and bumpy like bubbles in the rock. Looking to the northeast I saw Mt. Lassen in the distance. I knew this rock was volcanic. I turned to my mom and said, “They probably didn’t think that when the volcano was actually spewing lava and ash where we stand.”
It’s true. We go through life completely unaware of God’s plan, and when something doesn’t go our way we often think that God must have screwed up. What kind of God would send lava and ash spewing at me?!? The kind of God that knows exactly what he is doing is the kind of God that allows us to wrestle with our day-to-day struggles. In the moment we don’t see what good will come out of it, but I heard it said “Life only makes since in rewind.” If you don’t skip to the end of the novel everything leading up to the final chapter seems to be incomprehensible, unpredictable, sometimes happy yet sometimes unbearably painful. Since we will never know how each of our lives will end we must trust in the God that paints beautiful pictures.
Next time you are in a season of trials, frustrations, and disappointments reflect on God’s character and his faithfulness to see you through past trials. And lastly, take a look at a beautiful landscape, and know that in the end your life will make perfect sense like the lumpy, bumpy beauty of the rock at Upper Bidwell Park.