I have been pondering my first blog post of 2016 for awhile. I have attempted to write a few times and have drafts on my computer—words that went nowhere. As many of my faithful readers and followers know, I began this blog nearly three years ago when I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I entitled my blog “Consider It Joy” from the passage in James 1: 2-4 “…..when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” I have used my writing as a platform for hope and faith, for inspiration, for purposeful living. I have prayed that my blog would impact others and help them through the good and the hard times. In previous posts I have spoken about how JOY is not a giddy or excited “feeling”—because it cannot be based on the circumstances we are in. However, these past few months I have really wrestled with my personal joy—for you see I have been in what I first called a slump, then a funk, then a “severe decline”.
Since I injured my knee last September, and had knee surgery in December, I have been unable to do some of the things that help me “feel” joy and purpose….exercise, work, hanging out with friends. It has been a very dry, quiet and restless time for me. Through this time of Bible study, prayer, and journaling, I have realized how much of my identity I put into what I DO. Any former student of mine knows one of my most significant lessons—in fact former students will quote me often. I have always told them—“Your identity is not in your looks, your grades, your social status, your athletic performance, or the approval of others—your identity is found in Christ alone.” Yep, this is what I have shared and taught and told kids and adults for years…..and this past month I have had to wrestle with that belief statement for myself. Is my identity really truly in Christ alone? Is Jesus really enough?
As 2016 began, I was in a downward slump, truly questioning that if all I had and all I did were stripped away, would Jesus be enough? When a New Year rolls around we set out to be “better” versions of ourselves. Our emphasis is on what I can do…me, me, me. We try everything we can to feel happy, look better, be stronger, kinder…..only to be sorely disappointed when we “fail”.
A friend posted this quip on FB and it hit this to the core….it said “I am going to build a gym for the new year…it is going to have exercise equipment for the first two weeks and then I am turning it into a bar.”
I entered 2016 in a funk. I had no desire to set goals or resolutions. I didn’t feel any joy, not even joy in the Lord. As I was going through this and feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself— I began the degrading self talk—“suck it up, be grateful, change your attitude, discipline yourself” and guess what?—None of that helped. I read my Bible. Dry. I prayed. Dry. I journaled. Self pity. And then……I waited. I waited. I waited. As hard as it was, I allowed myself to be in that space. I kept praying; I kept trying to motivate myself to feel something, anything. I kept resting. And I continually asked, “Is Jesus really enough?” And finally, finally, finally, I heard this still small voice that said, “You have it backwards”.
The still small voice told me to stop focusing on what I could or had to do to “feel better or be better”, but simply to focus on Jesus. And I argued with that still small voice—I said, “Well where are you?” and “I don’t feel you” and “If the Holy Spirit gives me power, why am I so weak?” Yep, I argued with God. And I am not alone. Humans have been arguing with God since the beginning of creation. We seem to think that we know best. That we can do all things in our own power and strength. And this is what our culture teaches. Set goals, be disciplined, the power is within you.
But I know that I can DO NO GOOD THING apart from Christ. John 15: 5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
I know this is very counter culture to all that we are taught in this day and age. No one wants to depend on anyone, much less Christ. We want to be strong and courageous and disciplined and brave. But this year I have given myself one goal—and it isn’t a new goal at all. It is a daily goal that I will have to learn, re-learn and practice every day of my earthly life. And that goal is SURRENDER. Each day I need to surrender my weakness, my pride, my selfishness, my poor self image, my fears, my anxieties to God. Some days I will feel his power and presence and some days I won’t. That doesn’t mean He isn’t there or that His power is not within me. It simply means I am human. I am not God. One of my greatest life lessons was when someone told me, “The Savior has come and it isn’t you.” I have to teach myself this daily.
If you have entered 2016 and you may not be “feeling” accomplished, successful, purposeful, or joy filled, allow yourself to be in that space. Allow yourself to “wait upon the Lord.” Allow yourself to surrender. For the rest of my life, I will have to daily ask myself, “Is my identity truly in Christ” or am I resting on what I do? For the rest of my life, I will have to wrestle with the question, “Is Jesus really enough?” It is with these questions that I grow and endure in my faith, knowing that I do not have to “do” or “perform” to gain or earn Christ’s love. He knows my seasons of joy, of need, of want, or depression or dissatisfaction…..and He loves me. If you started 2016 with goals that start “I will do….”and perhaps you already feel you have failed, then know this…..every day is a “re-set” with Jesus. Perhaps this is the year that you surrender and allow Him to carry you through your every endeavor.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15: 13
A note to my readers: I know that many of you do not share the same beliefs or faith as I have, but I hope that in all my writing you will feel the love and grace of God. If there is ever anything that you have a question about, please feel free to private message me and start a conversation.