I have learned a lot about Lent since I started attending SMC. I really didn’t have many Lent take-aways from my childhood and adolescence in my little church growing up – and probably because I just didn’t really understand the significance of it. Reflection was not a tool in my toolbox at that point in my life. And refocusing on Christ wasn’t a big thing, because I hadn’t any life experience at that point that would draw me away from Him or lead me to question Him. *Sigh* the good ole days.
But, oh boy, have I been in the wilderness in adulthood! I have been tempted and tested and tried. I’ve been worn down and exhausted beyond reason. I’ve been hurt, broken, defeated. And I did not handle it like Jesus a good bit of the time. I’m thankful to have re-established my relationship with Jesus, so that’s not a constant pattern any longer. Make no mistake, some days I still don’t handle things well, because of selfishness or impetuous reaction or just not being connected enough to God.
So, this year, coming out of a season of darkness (Praise God!), I decided to make a really concerted effort during Lent toward fasting from negativity. Trusting really, truly that He is good and finding reasons to rejoice, even if my moment or my day or my week are less than stellar. I could have given up sugar, or social media, or any number of things. I could have taken on a literal fast (hard pass – I’m just not there yet). But I have felt led to fixate during this time on being joyful, regardless of external circumstances or stressors in my life. After all, He calls us to joy.
But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. (Galatians 5:22 TPT)
(Read this next line in your best Southern voice) Can I just tell you something? I have felt joy bubble up and emanate forth from the top of my noggin down to the tips of my toes. I haven’t felt that way in a long, long time. And some of my external circumstances have been a cause for joy as well (even though some things have changed; really most things have stayed the same). I could sit and argue the finer points of which came first – chicken or egg style – but I won’t, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am choosing to remain obedient in honoring how He wants me to live. I can feel it in my bones, and I feel like I’m wearing somebody’s crown jewels around my neck like a badge of honor. IT’S AMAZING!
My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! (John 15:11 TPT)
You love him passionately although you did not see him, but through believing in him you are saturated with an ecstatic joy, indescribably sublime and immersed in glory. (1 Peter 1:8 TPT)
Yes! Yes to all of that!!!!
Look, I know it won’t always be like this. There will be seasons that rock my little boat again. But I’m working in these 40 days to make it more of a lifestyle than it has ever been for me, in the hopes that it will carry through after Easter Sunday. I have felt this joy before on Easter Sundays past (it’s my favorite holiday because it is remembrance of the BEST GIFT we’ve ever been given – the joy often leaks out of my eyes those days). I’m just so thankful I’m living in that same joy now leading up to the day.
To know that I am loved and chosen and needed by our Creator God, and that He has a plan for me (whether I have it figured out or not), has finally resonated so deeply in this season that I can’t not be joyful. My prayer for you, Friend, is that you know this very same thing – and that you feel it (in His time) as strongly as I do right now.
We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because his heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be his, he endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God! (Hebrews 12:2 TPT)
May the Creator of the Universe, God Almighty in Heaven, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fill you with more joy than you will ever be able to contain.