Monday, October 26, 2015

Freedom from Circumstance

I've been wrestling over something in particular lately with God.  Something foolish and not at all worth the time, energy, and thought I've devoted to it.  I've been struggling with life with littles and how hard the day in and day out-ness of it all can really sap me in a myriad of ways.  It was always a hard job and I struggled my fair share of days in the past, but truth be told, things got a bit topsy-turvy when we arrived home from China and I've struggled to "right the ship" since then.  The fact of the matter is, I have four children.  When my feet hit American soil in February of this year I had four children aged six, three, three, and one and a half.  That is a lot of little people to be responsible for and the demands to keep up has been a battle for me.  I started to allow it to steal my joy.

For a while I was focused on it as a so called storm in my life, yet still, a storm I was called to enter into.  In Matthew 14, Jesus calls Peter out of the boat into the stormy waters.  Peter was precisely in the heart of God's will for him and only when he began to doubt and look away from the Lord did he begin to sink.  Immediately post China we were in the thick of stormy waters.  Adding a child to your family always takes time and adjustment.  It was hard and challenging, but just because it was hard, doesn't mean I wasn't in God's will.  Then time went by and it seemed like the storm was raging on a bit longer than a storm generally does.  So I named it a season.  Seasons come and go.  They begin and end.  I put my eyes out on the end of the season and trusted it would come to a close.  I placed a lot of foolish hope in the ending of that season.  And time went by.  And it didn't really end or really change all that significantly.  So I named it a circumstance.

Whoa.  What?  A circumstance?  Like a fixture in my life?  Like I won't know when it might go away sort of circumstance?

I struggled to embrace that idea.  All I could focus on was the loud, thundering thud I heard when I said its name....circumstance.  In an instant, my joy was gone. 

Enter the Deceiver.  Lies were whispered, my mind was clogged with thoughts of the permanency of that word, joy was drained away.  I lost my sense of purpose.  Circumstance felt so permanent.  What was the point of trying to work through if there was no through--no end-- to achieve?  Self became the focus and everything that happened was an attack on me.  Why would God take away my joy with this thing...this thing I've named circumstance?

Enter the mercy of the Giver of Joy.  He began ministering to me, placing things into my hands to read, enabling me to actually hear full sermons, and guiding me through Scripture.  Does it matter what this time with lots of littles is called?  Does it have to have a name?  Do I need to name it "storm," "season,", or "circumstance?"  Does that really matter?  Last I checked all that really mattered was God's will and I have no doubt I am right there, in the heart of His will for me.  I see Him.  I feel Him.  I know He is working in and through me (despite my constant mistakes and failure to follow or trust).

Where does my joy come from?  From the day to day?  From the circumstance?  No.  He never intended for me to find my joy in my circumstance.  Sure, those things may bring me happiness from time to time (who can resist the hug of a little person, or the snug fit they hold so perfectly in your lap when you read a good book, or the funny questions they come up with, or watching one of those precious little people sleep).  Happiness, however, is fleeting, and not the source of my joy.  The real problem is that I am seeking to find my joy in the circumstances.  Does His word tell me to look around at my circumstances and find my joy in them?  No.  He does use circumstance to bless me, change me, mold me, and shape me to be more like Him, but He does not ask me to find my joy in them.

True, everlasting joy can be found in the Lord alone.  The storm, season, and circumstance swirling around me will fail me every single time.  He will not.  He is constant and never changing.  He is beginning and end.  Only in Him can I find my everlasting joy and pleasure.  There will be situations daily that cause me unhappiness.  There will be spilled milk, fights with siblings, temper tantrums, communication barriers, appointments, laziness, and lack of self control.  I will not "feel" like rejoicing, but I can rejoice because I am known, intimately and personally, by a wonderful Father.  I can look for joy in the temporal, but I will never find it.  My eyes, heart, and mind need to be fully focused on the Lord and the joy that comes in knowing I am secure.  I am a full member of His family.  I have eternal joy in Him.  How can I do this?  How can I shift my thoughts?

My heart's cry is to just let it go.  I don't need to know if it is storm, season, or circumstance.  Those are just words the Deceiver wants me to use to define life with little people right now.  The Deceiver tells me my circumstance dictates my joy.  God's word tells me otherwise.  True, everlasting joy is found only in Him.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  If I am able to give thanks to Him in all circumstances, I am able to draw my focus off myself and my fleshly desires for an orderly home and compliant, obedient children.  There are reasons to give thanks at all times.  Another tantrum?  Another opportunity to point that child toward Christ.  Another mess?  Another opportunity to train my children on how to maintain an orderly home and care for their belongings.  Another meal to fix?  Another chance to humbly serve the family I've been blessed with.  Another quarrel among siblings?  Another chance to share how Jesus works through disputes.  Finding joy and opportunities to give thanks should be an easy and natural response to all that He gives me in my day to day life.

His word also tells me to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2).  I can focus on the messes, the behaviors, the tantrums, the arguments....or I can take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ and put my focus on Him.  What is He developing in me through this hardship?  My child?  My family?  The more my thoughts are on the Lord (and not myself), the more (and better able) I can love my family and find joy.  His joy. 

When negative emotions come over me during this time of raising many little people, I am more than likely thinking of myself, how the situation is inconveniencing me, or impacting me, creating hardship for me.  Finding reason to be grateful in all situations will shift my focus to Him.  My desire is to truly be grateful for each situation that comes my way--they each provide greater opportunity to grow in my own spiritual journey, but also to further train my little people to be soldiers for the Lord!  Finding gratitude in the opportunity to care for lots of little people and to stay home and school them helps me shift my eyes off me and onto Him and His provision.

No one has my unique set of circumstances.  I've been placed here by Christ to serve Christ.  Only I can do that in my specific situation.  Only I can draw more glory to Him in and through the midst of the daily circumstances.  God gives each of us special gifts to serve Him and it is our job to call upon the Holy Spirit to help us steward those gifts.

Storm, season, circumstance.....  It doesn't matter because my joy isn't found there.  My hope is in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. He gifts and equips, enabling us to tackle whatever He gives us.  God entrusted me with His work, but He never intended for me to accomplish it alone.  I can trudge through each day, dragging around the shackles called circumstance.  Or, I can allow myself the freedom to remove those shackles and find joy in the knowledge that He is here, with me, cleaning the spilled milk, disciplining the wayward child, folding the mountain of laundry.  Our teaching leader at BSF spoke these words of wisdom a couple weeks ago: "Diamonds are formed under pressure.  Pearls are formed by irritation.  Silver is made by refining fire."  He is here, ordaining all of it, every part of it with eternal purpose.  Good comes from hard.  Beauty comes from ugliness.  Yes, He is at work in the lives of those little people in my life, but more than that, He is at work in me.  He is changing me to be more like Him.  He is using this thing called circumstance to place me on the potter's wheel and change me.  I have eternal purpose as His child.  In that, I can find my joy.

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures."
~Psalm 16:11~

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