More than New Year’s day, birthdays serve as a catalyst to analyze, to ask the questions: what am I doing with my life? Am I where I want to be? What do I need to change to be where I want to be (in relationships, in my health, at home, in my spirit, etc.)?
Five years ago, I asked that question (age 33 was a motivating one for me) and it prompted me to tackle a goal I’d had since childhood. Write and publish that book!
This year I asked myself “is it enough?” Am I who I want to be? Of course, I can’t imagine many people proclaiming an emphatic “yes”. We are all in process and all growing–well, healthy people are. Lately, I’ve settled into this unfamiliar contentment that is somewhat a-typical for my personality, so I have to listen for more subtle ways God propels me forward. Usually a major goal rests on the horizon and I run toward that achievement, but lately, I’ve been motivated by two concepts: deeper community, and living victoriously. I don’t want to be shallow and superficial with people (I just don’t have the time or energy for guarded conversations that go no where and help no one) and I am tired of living like circumstances should dictate how my spirit resounds. I want to live a life of joy and peace and victory in Christ regardless of what grief, depression, stress or loss permeates my life.
Nehemiah 8:10b | “…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 | Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Talk about counter-cultural concepts. Our world says, “You have to have this to be happy and free,” when Christ says, “All you need is me.” This world will bring hardship, suffering, loss, and fear, but in Him, we stand firm and secure. How? We can rejoice always because of Who He is and what He has done, despite what life throws at us.
So, how do you live in authentic community, being honest about what’s going on in life and in your heart and still live a life of victory and joy? Seems like the two might be in conflict, right?
I’ve been thinking about this dichotomy a lot and the beauty that unfolds is found in the example of the Psalms. How often does David lament? How often does he say, “my soul is weary” or “I’m being attacked from all sides,” or even, “Where are you, Lord?” And yet, 9 times out of 10, he ends with “And yet…” The Lord will satisfy us (Ps. 22: 26) and He will accomplish what He determines to do (Ps. 22: 31).
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.” Ps. 138:7
He doesn’t end the entry with circumstances but with God’s character. He ends with praise and remembrance.
Psalm 20, ” Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.”
When community is real and healthy, it provides a safe place to share our deep soul-wounds and still helps encourage us forward on the journey. It’s like running with partners who are sore and tired too, but we can all encourage each other toward the finish line, helping to pull one another up when the other trips or gets leg cramps. We don’t just leave them there or sit down and say “Yeah, it’s not really worth running anymore.” No, we say, “Yes, it hurts, but with His help, we can do this!”