Joy under Pressure
Who hasn't seen the videos of the laughing baby? Someone tears a piece of paper, plays peek-a-boo or surprises the baby with a small action and the baby begins to laugh hysterically. When you are having a bad day, just watch one of these videos. In a few minutes, although you may not forget your troubles, you will most likely find yourself smiling and laughing along with the video and perhaps feeling a little better on the inside.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7 NIV
This past Sunday, my family served on the Welcome Team for our church congregation. Before anyone arrived our group joined in prayer that we might be a be smiling faces for at least one person who may need our encouragement. It was a simple, honest prayer.
Life is rough. No one promised us an easy ride, actually, quiet the contrary. Jesus told His disciples they would face hardships after his departure. As Christ followers, our lives are no different. There are many around us who feel rejected, abandoned, lonely, in need friends or companionship. Others are under great persecution with no relief in site. There are parents whose hearts are breaking as they watch from the sidelines at the struggles of their children. Everywhere we turn there are people walking a journey they would not have chosen for themselves.
"Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete...
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16: 22-24, 33 NIV
Our prayer before we served our congregation this past Sunday, to encourage someone, was answered before I went home. The examples of hurting people in the previous paragraph were actually fellow church members who were worshiping with me that morning. Although each of these people were in a low spot in their life, they were smiling, knowing our church was a safe place filled with people who loved them and cared enough to pray with them. Their smiles were not fake, get-me-through-this kind of smile, but an honest, "it will be better" smiles.
One lady, who is being bombarded from many directions, poured out her heart. We prayed together; within minutes I witnessed her smiling and encouraging someone else. I marveled at her strength! She was laughing as she knelt to speak to a young man in a wheel chair. Her strength was not her own; her joy was of the LORD, an immediate answer to our prayer. I didn't have to leave the building to find someone to encourage. God placed three right in front of me! Truth be known, there were probably many others worshipping with us that morning. If we genuinely ask, are willing to stop and listen, our Father will show us the hurting hearts around us that need His real joy.
May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds ; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing... You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.
Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord, to Him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens, who thunders with mighty voice.
Proclaim the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the heavens.
You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! Psalm 68:3-6, 9, 32-35 NIV
Back to our laughing baby...why is she laughing hysterically over a torn piece of paper? She laughs because there is no fear in the situation. Her father is doing something that is unexpected, something she cannot do for herself, and she delights in it. Isn't that just like our Heavenly Father? Everything around us may be swirling in chaos, but suddenly something catches us by surprise, a sunset, a friend calls, you find five dollars in your jacket pocket, your husband leans over and kisses your cheek when you are not paying attention, and your heart is encouraged. God's joy.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV)
Our Savior rides across the highest, ancient heavens on the clouds and speaks with a thundering voice: "Take heart! I have overcome the world. Ask and you will receive. NO ONE will take away your peace. You are MINE." (emphasis mine)
As Christians we have every reason to be filled with overflowing, hysterical joy. Our Father can do all things. Our LORD is on His throne. Nothing is too hard for Him and nothing can snatch you from His hand. If we know all this to be true, why aren't we laughing at the troubles of this world? I know it hurts, it's not fun, but we are the beloved children of the Most High God of Israel! He does not and will not bring us to anything He will not walk with us through. So throw your head back and laugh with pure joy!
Most Holy LORD, You are the great I am, the LORD our God, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior, Please satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make __________'s (insert name) heart glad for as many days as You allow affliction, for as many years there is trouble. May Your deeds be shown to __________ (insert name), your servant, Your splendor to his/her children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on __________ (insert name); establish the work of his/her hands for him/her— yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:14-17 NIV) Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5 ESV) May You, Holy Father, receive all praise for the joy found in__________ (insert name). Thank you, Amen.