“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? Psalm 39:7a
“Where do we go from here?” This concept is not foreign to any of us living through 2020.
As plans change by the hour and uncertainty feels like the only certainty, our hearts are left wondering “what now?”
Yet, when all our hopes and expectations are dashed, Jesus steps in as Hope himself.
Where do we go? Well, if nothing else we’ve figured out where not to go. Verse 6 lays out some of that: “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”
Our hope is not in productivity or money. Nor is it in political leaders or a health care system. If our ultimate hope is in our plans or our people, even then we will often be left disillusioned, distracted, and disappointed.
And so, Lord, where do we go?
Where CAN we put our hope?
Our only hope is You. (Psalm 39:7b, 71:5)
“And so we have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus, [our anchor of hope] has already gone in there for us.” Hebrews 6:18b-20a
“And this is the secret: Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
Something I’ve learned over the last few years and even in this month of trying to focus on joy is the importance of intentionality in choosing joy.
I’m also learning that there can be intentionality in choosing to stop things that aren’t bringing joy to my life.
I’m discovering this 31 Day Blog Challenge actually fits in that category.
I was so excited when the month started to center in on this topic and blog about my journey. While the focus of joy has continued strong and so has my desire to blog, the pressure of writing specifically about that topic and doing it every day has not proved to be joyful.
So, I’m abandoning ship. It happened unintentionally a few days ago when I simply forgot but it caused me to pause. So today I consciously decided to not force myself to keep going in this daily rhythm.
I am keeping the goal of writing more and I also have my ears and heart tuned in for concepts of joy. (For example, it’s been crazy to see that there hasn’t been a day since the start of October where the word joy or rejoice didn’t show up in my daily Bible reading. It’s literally been there every single day.)
So yes. Joy and blogging remain goals but I’m choosing to actually LIVE in joy by putting aside an arbitrary expectation that wasn’t helping me live the very thing I was writing about.
This leads to my questions for you today…
1. What are the things that brought you joy this week?
2. What’s something you may need to stop because it is not adding value, meaning, or joy to your life?
I loved the topic. I was honest in everything I said. I just didn’t feel like a good post to me. I wanted to delete it. I wanted to at least start over or maybe put it off and try that topic again a different day. I wanted perfection.
I posted it anyway.
There have actually be many in this month I haven’t really liked.
I’ve posted them anyway.
I feared that they aren’t as good as some of my other posts and wondered if people will be annoyed.
I keep posting anyway.
And I keep posting imperfect blogs because the whole point of this 31 blog challenge was to enjoy writing more and to focus on joy. If I stress myself out every night trying to get the “perfect post,” I’m not attaining either of those things.
Joy in imperfection means “okay” is okay.
Joy in imperfection means I have grace for myself (and not just in blogging).
Joy in imperfection allows space to grow.
Joy in imperfection feels approachable and real.
So even though I want to give up and abandon ship on this #31daysofjoy challenge, I will keep showing up. Because even in this, I’m discovering joy.
As I got off the phone with a friend tonight at the end of two hour long conversation, “joy” was the word that came to mind.
It seemed like a weird word since many of the things we talked about were not things I would tend to put in the category of “joyful.” But joy is often the emotion I feel after our conversations.
We get to talk about once a week and end up often sharing some of the hardest parts of life. We share good things about life and celebrate well together when those come along, but we’re also not afraid to go deep.
When we ask “how was your day” we expect to hear “horrible” if that was the truth. We confess the areas where sin and Satan trip us up. We cry and laugh together. We’re not afraid to call each other out and even have learned the value of bringing it up when one of us has done something that hurt the other.
Again, I was trying to process why “joy” is the word that comes to mind even when conversation topics are often so deep and hard. But I think it’s because of safety in that vulnerable place.
It is a true gift to be deeply known by someone and loved and valued in that space. For someone to see ALL your mess and mistakes and yet desire your good and cheer for you as you sort through it all, is a blessing.
Joy comes when we are known and loved.
Joy overwhelms when a friend draws near.
Joy brings peace and contentment when one we love can remind us things about ourselves that we have forgotten.
Vulnerability is hard and in many places it can be risky. But if we can find safe places to be our truest selves I think we may also be our most joyful selves.
In addition to the theme of “joy” I’ve been intrigued lately by the concept of “glory”. While reading through Romans 8 two weeks in a row for some grad school assignments I noticed this word a few times. There are a ton of great things in this chapter of scripture that I come back to again and again, but I had never noticed the concept of glory. For the couple weeks that followed I’ve been alert to where else I see glory in scripture. Earlier this week a friend was also sharing about what God had been teaching her about bringing God glory in our lives.
As I spent some time in prayer this morning I found myself praying over a specific situation in life using both the concepts of joy and glory. I was asking God to act in this situation in ways that bring him glory but also bring me joy. I’ve heard and prayed something similar before “for His glory and our good”, but this was the first time I had altered it slightly to involve joy.
You can imagine my shock this evening when I was listening to a podcast as I wandered around town and this was the speaker’s main point:
“So the question is: how do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy even if He never answers your deepest heart prayers?” – Annie F Downs
The more I’ve pondered this throughout the day the more I think those two things… God’s glory and my joy… are intertwined. When God gets the glory, that is often a joyful moment for me. And when I am filled with the deep joy of Jesus, God delights in that and is glorified.
I’m not sure where to land with this. There’s not a nice neat blog post “bow” to end with. But maybe we can just spend some time this weekend asking God to bring us joy and him glory through our lives.
In favorite tea, and getting some loose leaf to enjoy another day as well
In friends to share life with, even if it’s one text message at a time
In taco salad on a Thursday night
In the smile of a 1 year old
In a favorite outfit
In making music in a dark sanctuary
In sharing truth and inviting others in
In deep peace and steady hope
In all this and more… there is…
It’s not always loud. It’s not always “happy”. I’m finding the “quiet” joy is perhaps my favorite kind. A confident trust at the end of the day, that no matter what that day held, in the end it’s all going to be okay.
In a conversation tonight with a friend, she recounted the seasons we often live in. When something new begins it’s like Spring. There is excitement, bright colors, and what seems like great joy.
Then, Summer. She mentioned the concept of farmers work plowing, preparing, planting. It’s hard, intentional work.
The harvest of Autumn is hard work as well, but there is also perhaps a sense of relief in that what was hoped for has come, the work that was put in produced something.
She was relating this to some seasons in our own lives where we’ve been able to see the reward of hard work, or gain courage to keep putting in for the hope of harvest.
All of this reminded me of a verse I read a couple days ago. It is such a clear picture of this and also ties in my month-long focus of joy:
“Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” Psalms 126:4-6
Planting in tears…
Leads to harvesting in joy.
That seemed like a helpful reminder today. In some areas of my life I am seeing this from the end result. There is some great joy right now in some situations where hard work was literally watered with SO many tears. What a blessing to share great joy, proclaiming it loudly as I see what God has caused to grow.
At the same time, in my life and my friend’s there are other situations where the drudgery of planting still continues on. The tears continue to flow. The hard work is exhausting and we’re tempted to give in.
But this promise revives hope.
Planting in tears
Leads to harvesting in joy.
And so … “we run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this keeping our eyes on Jesus… who, because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-3
Maybe you’ve heard it in your circles, seen it posted on social media you follow, or even complained about this year yourself. It feels like this year has just beat everyone up.
I have to admit, it really has been a rough one, though one social media post I saw recently reframed it a bit for me.
I wish I could find it or remember more of what it said, but one piece mentioned that there were 100 days left in this year. The premise was something to the effect of: what if we found ways to use those days well instead of just writing them off? What if we believed good could be found in them? What if we invested them well?
Around the same time I saw this post I was battling some self-criticism and doubt about a few things. Comparison was keeping me from doing some things I love simply because I didn’t feel as talented in that as people I see around me.
Suddenly the thought crossed my mind: what if I spent 5 minutes a day for the next 100 days investing in working on that skill. What if I took the final 100 days to grow instead of writing myself off because I’m not already perfect? What if I allowed myself to be a beginner and enjoyed the process of exploring and growth?
To commit 500 minutes to a task means over 8 hours working on this skill. Instead of complaining that I’m not good enough, why not actually work on growing? And, as is often the case, a five minute daily commitment often ends up being 15 or 20 or even an hour of practice.
So the journey began. I’m excited to see how I grow.
But it wasn’t just a journey to grow in this one skill, this 5 minute a day commitment became a fight for a joy. A fight to reclaim some of what “this year” stole from me in the middle months. A fight, determined to not let this year end in a place of defeat and struggle.
While at the time of this writing we only have 87 days left now in the year, I want to challenge you to consider: how do you want this year to end? There are SO many things outside of our control, but there are so many things we do have control over as well. What’s something you could invest 5 minutes a day in to bring joy to your life?
5 minutes to play a musical instrument
5 minutes to write a quick note to a friend
5 minutes to clean up your workspace at the end of a day
5 minutes to laugh
5 minutes to exercise
5 minutes to practice a skill
5 minutes to simply be present with a friend or family member
5 minutes to read Scripture or pray
5 minutes to sit outside
5 minutes to put down the phone
5 minutes to list things you’re thankful for
5 minutes to grieve losses
5 minutes to snuggle a kid
5 minutes to hope
What would your 5 minutes hold? Now commit to that every day until the calendar flips to 2021… and maybe, just maybe, we can look back on 2020 and see more than just the hard. Maybe, just maybe, we can remember joy.