Right at this moment there are two men in my kitchen, loudly working on my ceiling. There’s nothing quite like a gaping hole six feet away from the Christmas tree to put you in the holiday spirit!
Later today the road in front of my house is going to be closed for a funeral procession. My county police force is laying to rest one of their own, his life taken by a drunk driver during a checkpoint stop of another driver. This week his family will say goodbye to him. Next week they will face Christmas without him.
I don’t know how this works. I ache for them. I can’t allow myself to even think about that family’s pain because it takes my breath away.
Joyful in hope…
Hop with me for just a moment into my Wayback Machine. Last January 8th an interesting thing happened. I clicked to My Utmost for His Highest on my phone to find a devotion to lead my time in the word that day. This is what the great and powerful Oswald had to say: “It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God.”
And with that I was down the Romans 12 rabbit hole.
After reading all of Romans 12, I was hungry for more of God’s word so grabbed another devotional, Jesus Calling, and turned to January 8th. This is what the author wrote: “Cling to hope, and my rays of light will reach you through the darkness.” (Romans 12:12)
God had my attention. Why was Romans 12 following me around that day?
That evening after the kids were in bed, I picked up a book I had been reading called The Search for Significance. I opened to the page where I had left off, and halfway down the page I was met with this…you know what’s coming…
Sometimes God gets a little bossy with me. This time he was shouting.
I continued to pray about and read Romans 12 that week, hoping that God would lead me to understand His purpose in placing this chapter in my path over and over and over again. That Sunday I attended worship at our church’s satellite campus for the first time, and I sat there listening intently to the minister’s sermon when I heard this: “Look with me…turn over to Romans Chapter 12…Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
I remember that moment like it just happened. Romans 12. I sat there shaking, tears rolling down my cheeks. God loves to speak to me through connections, clearly understanding in His omnipresent, omniscient goodness that this is the easiest way to get my attention. This, however, was far beyond the same verse appearing in two devotionals on the same day.
Eleven months later, earlier this month, I sat with my Christian counselor and laughed when she asked me to turn to Romans 12. We’ve only been working together for a short time, so she didn’t know about that day back in January when Paul’s words seemed to be following me around. Two days later I sat once again in my church’s satellite campus, listening to a sermon from a different pastor, when I heard him read Romans 12:2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… God, what now? Where are you taking me? Three days later in small group, our leader asked us to turn to Romans 12 and begin with verses 1 and 2…
Thanks to the power of the Internet, I was able to look back this morning to that original sermon from January 11th of this year. Just before asking us to turn to Romans 12, the pastor said, “You and I need to understand that the process of transformation begins in our minds. We so often are led around by our feelings that we think, ‘If I could just feel better…” After reading Romans 12, verses 1 and 2, the pastor went on to say, “You and I sometimes are waiting to feel something different. Listen, our feelings will catch up, our feelings will follow up after we just decide that I’m gonna’ trust that God says I’m a forgiven person, loved by Him…”
And now back to the topic of Joy. How do we find joy, hope, peace, even in times of affliction and pain? We become joyful in hope, patient in affliction, overcome evil with good, live at peace with everyone, bless others, be transformed through the renewing of our minds, understanding God’s will, and believing that our feelings will catch up.
Friends, He is coming.
Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Find your joy in the Lord today and always.
Father, I can not begin to understand your perfect plan for this world and your children. I look at the pain around me and am overwhelmed by my feelings: confusion, sadness, hopelessness. I can trust only in you, not those passing feelings, believing when you tell us that you know the plans you have for us, plans to prosper and not harm, plans to give hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). Transform our minds, helping us to no longer rely on the feelings this world elicits, but to instead experience true joy in you, the hope of the world.
- Make a list of the things in your life that bring you the most joy. Have any of those things – people, experiences, material items, relationships – ever been taken from you? What happens to your joy when you experience those losses?
- What does it mean to you to welcome the transformation of your mind? How do your thoughts dictate your feelings?
- What would happen if during this week of Advent you chose to trust in the joy that comes from the Lord, recognizing and then releasing the feelings you experience, returning to the peace and hope of the Lord through a moment of prayer or the reading of scripture?
Advent week one: hope
Advent week two: peace