Last week, I wrote about lacking a spirit of joy and how that can be connected to a lack of expressing both the pain in our lives and the praise due to God. This week, I am reminded by Heather Avis how much our joy can also be tied to our obedience.
After Heather and her husband Josh began to explore adoption, they knew they weren’t too picky about much, they just wanted a healthy child. And yet, she knew deep down when the opportunity to adopt a medically fragile child with down syndrome was presented to her, that was the right thing for their family. And yet, she wrestled. Who wouldn’t? From her standpoint, she couldn’t see the joy in that. Who signed up for life to be harder on purpose? It’s one thing to accept a diagnosis handed to you, but an entirely another thing to volunteer for it.
As she writes in her book, she looks back and says with wisdom, “[God’s] best may be the very thing I wanted with all my heart to avoid.”
I’ve seen it in story after story and in my own life, those moments when what God asks us to do is the very last thing we want to do. And yet, when we do it, joy and peace were waiting on the other side.
Jesus says it this way in John 15: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Our complete joy will only ever be found in obedience to God and love of others.
Obedience + Love = Joy.
And often, that obedience doesn’t make sense and that love is hard. But as we stay connected to Jesus, we learn that our Heavenly Father is a good gardener and he directs his children to good things and the Holy Spirit helps us along the way.
And so, I’m asking myself this week. Am I hungry for more joy? Then I have to answer this question: is there something God is asking me to do right now that I want to avoid with all of my heart?
I bet there is and I bet it has something to do with loving someone else.
Maybe a conversation that needs to happen.
Maybe a way you need to serve someone.
Maybe an invitation that needs extending.
Maybe forgiveness given.
Maybe it’s a book you need to write.
Maybe it’s a job you need to take or a city you need to move to.
God is always moving us towards loving others and it’s not always an easy yes.
Let me encourage you to trust. Trust God’s character, his plans, and his outcome. As God told Heather, “Don’t forget who I am. I’ve got this. This is what I do. Now you do what I’ve designed you to do.”
Father, thank you for being a good father and moving us towards love and joy. Thank you that your ways are higher than our own. Help us to be obedient when our flesh wants to run and rebel. Give us a soft heart towards the people you want us to love well and help us give a cheerful yes. Holy Spirit, help us in our weakness that we would be able to carry out the plans and good works prepared for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen