“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every
thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The reason that ‘Peace’ is in the title of this devotional is because for some of us the issue of ‘peace’ in our lives is more tangible and crucial right now than the presence of ‘joy’. So wherever you see the word ‘joy’ please feel free to substitute the word ‘peace’, not because they are the same but because every thing I want to say about ‘joy’ equally applies to ‘peace’.
A few years ago, ‘Joy’ became my constant companion rather than an occasional acquaintance. This was totally unexpected and more than a little remarkable. Many times in my life I had experienced Joy dropping in, ’surprising me’, and then leaving…sometimes within a couple days, but usually within hours or minutes. I loved the visits but instinctively knew that Joy must have other (probably better) things to do, but had stopped by long enough to bless me with a touch of encouragement in a difficult time or a taste of something wonderful when the world seemed particularly grey and flavorless. Usually the sudden presence of Joy had no rhyme or reason, at least not that I could tell…a surprise visitor who was always welcome, slept in the guest bedroom and was normally gone before the first light of day, bed made up, a note that said ‘thank you’ and ’see you again soon.’
But to move in and stay…that was unexpected. For the first six months I was a little on edge about the whole new relationship. It seemed that it would be rather rude to simply ask, “Okay, why exactly are you still here?” Perhaps, I was a little apprehensive that such a question would remind Joy that there were more important things to do than hang around me, and off Joy would go. But I liked it…the presence of Joy…a lot!
So what happened? Why had Joy decided to stick around and permeate my every day, even the really tough, gut-wrenching ones? Even as I write this, Joy is standing just over my shoulder, leaning on me just enough so that I know… and watching (with a grin) what I am writing.
As I mulled this incongruity over and talked with friends and family I began to understand part of the reason for Joy’s permanence in my life. A couple of years ago, I decided to stop ‘future tripping’. ‘Future Tripping’ is ‘taking thought for tomorrow.’ It is creating imaginations of what is going to happen and then actually taking a mental and emotional trip to live there for a bit. It is ‘what am I going to do if _________’ (fill in the blank), ‘what am I going to say if __________,’ ‘what would our family go through if _____________.’
I confess to you that I have experienced many un-realities and their attendant emotions this way. I have repeatedly suffered huge financial losses, ended up living under one of the city bridges, been abandoned by my family, suffered the loss of each of my children, had my closest friends turn out to be villains, embarrassed myself in public, was put on the spot and said something stupid, been to my own funeral (more than once), unsuccessfully tried to stop something horrible from happening, failed repeatedly to live up to somebody’s expectations, been horribly maimed in every kind of imaginable accident known to man, lost all my teeth, lost every job I ever had, came down with every disease possible, regularly looked like an idiot, got my lights punched out for no reason, explained my driving to a police officer, lost my friends, went to school and found out I wasn’t wearing anything, got mugged, imagined the situation that I currently was in was permanent…that nothing could ever or would ever change…you get the idea.
I have written volumes of imaginations in my own head, things that have no substance, no reality, and are empty, vain imaginations. But I treat them as if they are real. I feel all kinds of terrifying and horrible emotions and scramble to control my life so that these imaginations won’t actually come to pass. THESE IMAGINATIONS ARE NOT REAL! But I had spent most of my life in or around them. GOD DOES NOT DWELL IN ANYTHING THAT IS NOT REAL!
In these imaginations, Papa (God) is conspicuously absent. Why? Because Papa has no interest in living inside something that isn’t even real to begin with. So in my vain, empty imaginations, I am the only ‘god’ there is. I have to fix things, make sure things turn out right, try to get a handle on people and events…and frankly, I do a very poor job of it…this playing god thing. So, my life tended to be gripped by fear and I worked hard to get some ‘control’ to prevent these imaginations that I feared. I had a habit of treating something that had no reality or substance as if it were truly real.
A couple years ago I stopped this insanity. And here is what I discovered. JOY has a name. Joy is not only a fruit of the Spirit of God, but a manifestation of the presence of the very real Jesus who dwells inside of us. In fact, JOY had never left me at all; it was me that continually left Joy, to run into some imagined future and resultant fear. It had never been Joy that was the occasional acquaintance…it was me that had been the visitor.
For a few years now I have stayed inside the confines of the grace that is for today. Today is where Papa dwells with me; today is where eternity intersects my life, and even when I get to tomorrow, it is still ‘today’ when I get there. If grace, in part, is what energizes me to sense Papa’s presence, to hear His voice, then I was obviously wasting what grace was given me for the ‘real’ day on imaginations that weren’t even real, had no substance and were empty (every vain imagination that raises itself up against the knowing of God).
Do I make plans for tomorrow? Sure, but they are held loosely and with an open hand…and I don’t live there. I live in His present(ce), which is TODAY. How many times are Grace and Peace, or Grace and Joy linked together in the New Testament? If you try and hoard up grace for more than Today, you will end up with something that is rotting and can’t be lived on. If you run away to empty imaginations you will neither sense His present(ce) nor hear His voice.
I read Joy’s blog the other day, and it began…”A couple years ago Paul became my constant companion rather than an occasional acquaintance…” Sweeeeeet!
Focus on joy, grace and peace for today. Do not worry about tomorrow. If you are not familiar with “manna from heaven,” read Exodus 16.
“Father God (Papa), just as the Israelites received manna from heaven one day at a time, help me rely on Your grace one day at a time so that I can truly find peace and joy in You.”